London Cycling Campaign condemns Minister Eric Pickles call for more cars in our town centres

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The London Cycling Campaign has challenged the recent pronouncement from Community and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles that more and cheaper car parking will benefit our town centres. 

We believe it’s a myth that more or cheaper parking will improve the economic situation for high streets/business, and that it should be accepted that on-street car parking is a privilege.

There’s little evidence that increasing the quantity of car parking improves town centres; in many instances it’s more likely to increase congestion and make town centres less appealing for shoppers.

There’s plenty of evidence from the UK (look at Broadway Market, Hackney) that cycling can lead to economic regeneration, as well as similar evidence from cities like New York, where businesses around new segregated cycle tracks are booming.

On the other hand, there are many town centres (see the image of Lewisham High Street above) that are often choked with motor traffic to the detriment of local residents and businesses.

Car ownership in London – the most prosperous city in the UK by far - has been decreasing steadily for over a decade, making a nonsense of the simplistic attitude from the Minister. 

One of the key barriers to providing safe space for cycling is politicians' unwillingness to put cycling safety ahead of parking for private motor vehicles on the public highway.  

As it stands, too often cyclists are forced into narrow, intimidating spaces between parked and parking cars, as well as into the path of opening car doors and moving traffic.

This danger and discomfort is the reason why most people currently won’t cycle in town centres, which in turn is a major reason why so many town centres are congested with motor traffic, with too many people making unnecessary short trips by car.

To make cycling a genuinely safe and comfortable option, it’s essential to reduce car parking.

Pickles' proposals directly harm cycling, as well as reducing quality of life and people’s environment in town centres.

This neglect of the environment also harms walking, and reduces the quality of life 

Many have sensibly made the point that it’s confusing that nationwide 20mph speed limits in towns are rejected by the Coalition Government on the basis that “local areas know better”, but that national guidance is deemed appropriate to increase car parking.