Sunday, 24 January 2016

Let's park that shall we...?

If you drive a car these days, finding somewhere to park it has become an increasingly challenging task. Driving to local shops often involves a turn or two around the block, frustration and even anger as there is nowhere to leave the car whilst you nip out for a few groceries or enjoy a coffee, post a letter or get your hair trimmed.

Visiting friends may mean parking a street or several away, especially if they live in a part of the country designed and built when transport was unlikely to involve more than four legs or two wheels. Narrow roads narrowed further by cars parked on both sides of the street can require reversing skills second to none and the one way systems in such areas can easily send you round the bend.

To add to the issue, in spite of paved driveways replacing manicured front lawns, and even with the proliferation of dropped kerbs and the  demise of tree lined boulevards, residents are finding it increasingly difficult to accommodate the two, three or four vehicles owned by their household.

None of these issues are exclusive to any particular area. But there's little doubt that if you live close to a Tube Station in the suburbs you will experience at least one if not all of them. For parking problems cannot help but be exacerbated by Commuter Parking.

Hence a concerted and joined up effort by a cross party working group here in Croxley Green. The issue was raised by Beth Devonshire, proprietor of the lovely Coco Cafe. Her premises sit on the A412 at a point where parking on both sides of the main road cause a bottleneck that slows traffic and can bring it to a standstill.

The issue was raised at Parish Council level, with the working group including local business owners. District Councillors are now interested and involved and we've realised this issue is not a new one.

Parking restrictions are in place in some roads, with resident permits available. This may solve the problem in one road but can move it elsewhere. Parking bays and car parks that allow one hour parking can help some businesses but having to dash out and move your car with wet hair wrapped in a towel,or between your starter and main, can be a nuisance.

Streets near the station crammed with commuters' cars make it tricky for staff who work outside the area to park near their place of work. It's not unheard of for them to leave work for five minutes every hour. Not for a cigarette break but to move the car away from the patrolling traffic warden's eagle eye!

Is there a solution? The station car park is full most days - might it be extended to a multi storey car park? Could come unused land be used as a car park - even temporarily? Could more people walk or cycle to the station, leaving their cars at home and perhaps reducing the need for an extra car in the family? Expect visits and surveys from local councillors in the coming weeks as the working group seeks to identify the main issues and how residents would like it to be resolved.

Here is one suggestion. Hear it out - people said that the Boris Bikes would never take off but look how they have!

Can we introduce a Croxley-wide Cycle Hire Scheme? Perhaps with a view to extending into Rickmansworth and Watford? Bike racks can be placed at the station, the community centre and perhaps at local schools. We need funding - perhaps through commercial sponsorship. But most of all we need the will to make it work. Sure there will be issues - I have heard many of them already. But imagine the benefits! Increased levels of fitness, less need to go to the gym, a reduction in obesity, children getting more exercise, Watford Boys cycling to school if the Met Station there goes, less commuter parking, increased business for local shops - the list goes on!

This is high on my list of Make-It-Happen schemes this year. Along with the wormeries. But that's Debi's area of expertise so for now I'll get on my bike and leave it there!