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The Perilous Politics of Parking

Published: 27/11/2019

TPS on Parking Wars Episode 1 (2015) and The Perilous Politics of Parking

TPS on Parking Wars Episode 1 (2015) and The Perilous Politics of Parking

Parking spaces seem innocuous, just a couple of lines painted on asphalt. Multiplied and mismanaged, though, they can create traffic jams and worsen air pollution. This ITV documentary, although some years old now, filmed a TPS attempt to help manage an overwhelming traffic jam in a free for all hospital parking environment. The problem is still there some years later, as this recent article on Wales Online explains.

On the face of it, there is a certain logic in making hospital parking free and perhaps that’s why trade unions, Jeremy Corbyn and now Boris Johnson are all in favour. After all, it helps make sure that health is free at the point of use. Some consider parking charges to be a tax on the ill. In 2008, the then health secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced an end to parking fees at the vast majority of hospitals in Scotland. By 2013, it was reported a ‘Hospital car parking hell’. A Sunday Post probe revealed that now there are so few spaces outside some of the country’s biggest infirmaries motorists are resorting to parking in nearby housing estates and shopping centres as they try to seek medical help or visit sick relatives.

The cost of missed appointments to one side which runs in the millions, in a report in 2015, the Scottish Government admitted the policy had already cost £25m in lost parking revenue – a substantial subsidy that was not matched for other modes of transport such free bus travel to hospital.

Unfortunately, the subject appears too politically toxic for us to see any radical change. Little wonder the former London commissioner for cycling, once described parking as ‘the third rail of politics – if you touch it, you die’.

It’s remiss of those with responsibility for parking at hospitals to ignore the fact car culture contributes significantly to the sedentary lifestyles that are putting so many people in hospital in the first place. Public Health England reported last summer that 6 million middle-aged Brits walk less than 10 minutes each month. Surely, we should be subsiding active modes of travel rather than subsidising car travel.

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