HOW FAR would you go to grab a parking space? Park on a pavement? On a roundabout? In the middle of the road?
The lengths to which frustrated British drivers go to park their cars has been revealed after Jeremy Clarkson challenged his 3.5m Twitter followers to enter a “creative parking” challenge. The Sunday Times columnist sparked a Twitter storm after posting a picture of a lorry apparently parked on the pavement on a London street near his home. “Yup. That’s parked,” he wrote.
Within hours the picture had been retweeted more than 1,000 times and tagged as a favourite by almost 3,000 people. Scores of people replied with their own images of “creative parking”.
Clarkson’s tweet comes at a time of growing frustration with parking authorities, which many drivers feel are driving people away from high streets with overzealous enforcement — often forcing people away from legitimate parking spaces and into guerrilla bays where they hope they will not be noticed. The frustration was reflected earlier this month in an announcement by Eric Pickles, the communities minister, that he intended to ban CCTV spy cars that issue tickets to motorists for even momentary parking transgressions.
Clarkson himself says the best pictures show it is still possible to beat overzealous traffic wardens — though bad parking is something different, and a menace. “I like creative parking. I like using common sense to park in places the authorities haven’t thought about. Bad parking, though? Selfish parking? No. That should carry the death penalty.”
“I like creative parking. I like using common sense to park in places the authorities haven’t thought about. Bad parking, though? Selfish parking? No. That should carry the death penalty.”
The first picture to be tweeted, from Tim Dixon, was typical: it showed a blue Mini in a deserted petrol station car park that had been left half on the white hatched boxes and half inside a designated bay. “And here’s one I spotted this morning. Damn those tricky white lines in tight spaces,” tweeted Dixon.
Another shows a BMW off-roader brazenly parked on a grassed area, in spite of the empty spaces on either side. A follower called Lesley Yeates posted a snap of a Hyundai parked diagonally across two bays in a supermarket car park: “Creative parking at its finest near Horsham, simply amazing.” Stacey Duncan posted a picture of a white Vauxhall estate that had seemingly been abandoned in the middle of a road. “A ‘WTF?’ parking moment,” she tweeted. “This was actually parked, blocking a junction [in Hull].”
But among the egregious and hilarious — one photo featured a car parked in wet cement — the most common images were of vehicles parked in a way that while not illegal would cause irritation to other road users. Dozens of images show vehicles parked in underground car parks so closely to neighbouring vehicles that the driver would not be able to open the front door; others showed cars taking up two bays where space was at a premium.
It is not just on Twitter. Videos sites such as YouTube feature hundreds of examples of creative parking and of drivers struggling to manoeuvre their vehicles in and out of bays. See our video below.
The reaction on social media has cast a spotlight on British drivers’ increasing susceptibility to “parking rage”, caused, according to motoring experts, by the fact that there appear to be fewer parking spaces and more cars on the roads. Many drivers are resorting to sneaky tactics to ensure they get a space, while others are simply too lazy to search for a legitimate spot. In turn this is making other road users increasingly frustrated.
A survey by the used-car supermarket We Buy Any Car found that a quarter of motorists had become so angry about bad parking that they had resorted to verbally attacking the offenders.
The survey found that blocking access to properties topped the list of infuriating actions, with 75% of people objecting, followed by parking too closely to another car (70%) and stealing a space from a driver who is already waiting to park in it (64%). Other behaviour that makes motorists snap includes parking outside painted lines defining a parking bay (52%) and parking on the pavement (34%).
The British Parking Association (BPA), the trade body that represents council parking enforcement agencies, backs up the findings, saying that its members have noticed that the standard of parking has deteriorated in recent years.
“Parking has become more selfish,” says Kelvin Reynolds, the BPA’s director of policy and public affairs. “People are less concerned about other drivers because there are a lot more vehicles on the road and fewer free spaces, so supply and demand creates tension that wasn’t there 20 years ago. You hear reports of parking rage — I’ve had someone push in front while I’ve been waiting for a space.”
The consequences can be comical, as the Twitter pictures show, but they can also be tragic. Earlier this month a nurse was convicted of killing a mother in a parking rage row in a pub car park in Barnet, north London. Ophelia Okai-Koi, 51, sped off with 33-year-old Christie McHugh on her bonnet. McHugh was flung from the car and fatally injured. The row was sparked when Okai-Koi’s inconsiderate parking stopped McHugh getting a baby seat into the back of her own car.
“People are less concerned about other drivers because there are a lot more vehicles on the road and fewer free spaces, so supply and demand creates tension that wasn’t there 20 years ago.”
One of the problems is that cars are getting larger while parking bays are staying the same size. The average width of a new car is about 6ft 1in but government guidelines in the traffic signs regulations and general directions state that on-street parking spaces should be a minimum of 5ft 11in wide, meaning many modern cars simply won’t fit between the white lines.
And they could be about to get smaller still: a consultation document being considered by the Department for Transport proposes the scrapping of guidelines for the size of parking bays, allowing councils to make spaces smaller — or bigger — than at present.
Motoring organisations have criticised the proposals as a “farce” and predicted that some greedy local authorities will downsize bays to boost revenues. “We all know modern cars are getting bigger and we all know that local authorities are trying to squeeze more spaces in as traffic increases,” says Paul Watters of the AA. “Drivers already have to circulate to find a space that they can fit into and aren’t at risk of being blocked in.”
Technology may come to the rescue, though. Many cars already feature self-parking technology but Audi is now working on a system that will allow drivers to leave their vehicle at the entrance of a car park. The car is then guided autonomously to a spare parking bay by a network of sensors.
In Germany a robot nicknamed Ray has been developed to help drivers fit into tight spaces by parking their car for them. The technology, currently being used at Düsseldorf airport, uses lasers to measure the exact dimensions of a car and then employs a forklift truck-style mechanism to carry the car and position it precisely in a suitable space. The company behind the scheme claims to be able to park 60% more vehicles in a given area than a human driver.
Not that bad parking is likely to disappear completely. One of the images tweeted to Clarkson was of the inside of a busy pub — with a bicycle “creatively parked” by the bar.