Managing on-street parking

Where's best on streets to allow parking and what sort of controls you should consider

Introducing new parking restrictions can be controversial, particularly if someone has to pay to park outside their own front door for the first time. Parking has increased gradually over years and if you were to show people fifty years ago how street space would be taken over by parked vehicles they would be surprised. Once a well planned parking restriction is in place, there is rarely opposition.

Ideas for your community could include:

  • restrictions near junctions and crossing points - to improve safety
  • reducing parking along main roads as well as bus and cycle routes - this makes it easier and safer for buses and cycles to get around
  • introduce restricted parking zones in town and village centres, in which parking is prohibited except in designated spaces - this makes restrictions easier to understand and reduces clutter, helping improve the street scene
  • introduce controlled parking zones to residential areas - this can free up space for better street layouts, while ensuring residents’ needs are prioritised
  • set long term targets to reduce car parking to encourage a shift to other forms of travel - the city of Copenhagen has a long-term policy to reduce car parking by 2% per year which has been key to encouraging more people to cycle there

Parking controls

Parking can be restricted in the following ways:

  • stopping restriction (such as red route or clearway) - prevents stopping unless traffic in front has stopped
  • loading restriction - stopping to let passengers alight is permitted
  • waiting restriction - loading, disabled parking and letting passengers alight is permitted

These restrictions are made through traffic orders, which are explained in the improving streets and lane section. The restrictions are shown in the Highway Code - waiting and loading restrictions.

Parking can be controlled through:

  • lining along a kerb, such as yellow lines for waiting and ‘blips’ or chevrons for loading
  • zonal restriction, which is indicated through signs at the start and end plus in some cases signs by the side of the road, such a pedestrian zone or a restricted parking zone
  • other restrictions, such as next to dropped kerbs and raised tables (where road is level with pavement) or where there is a mandatory cycle lane (with solid white line) during its hours of operation

Zonal restrictions are best where there is a restriction for more than just one street and can be combined with additional restrictions where needed. Restrictions can operate at any time, or just an hour a day, for example controlled parking zones can be used to prevent commuters leaving their cars all day in a residential area.

Alternatively maximum stay lengths or different charging policies, for example having charges increasingly steeply after a four hour stay, can be used to prevent long stayers taking up spaces intended for short stays.

It’s worth remembering considering provision of:

  • places for disabled people to park so they can reach key shops and services easily, though in town centres you may consider a shopmobility scheme instead
  • places for car clubs and electric charging points
  • places for loading, otherwise business may object to proposals.

Pavement parking (which also includes parking on verges) can be a particular problem, as it leaves nowhere for people to walk. Some places such as London have local laws that prohibit it but for elsewhere there are now additional powers to tackle it. More information is available in a Department for Transport press release and case studies as well as from Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians Association).

Where to have parking

On most roads there is not enough space to please everyone so parking needs to be balanced with other uses. It is useful to look at the shaping routes and networks section to help judge this and also consider what type of road you are dealing with..

On minor streets, parking can narrow the road and help calm traffic. It can, however, create a metal wall between the carriageway and the pavement, creating a canyon effect that does the opposite and makes it harder for people to cross the street. There are two main ways to deal with this. Creating pavement build-outs can make it easier to cross the road and breaks up the line of cars. Alternatively diagonal (also known as echelon parking) can be introduced to reduce sight lines and force drivers to negotiate a road more slowly. This is often the approach in home zones.

On main roads with space, a good approach is to create ‘parking lanes’ by building out the pavement so that the parking becomes a bay. This helps narrow the carriageway to reduce speeds and weaving, particularly by people cycling. The buildouts can be used to help people cross the road on foot, as well as for tree planting and cycle parking. Going one step further the space in the parking lane can be raised to pavement level, creating inset bays that function as pavement when not parked in.

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