Cyclist.ie, the network for all the cycling campaigns in Ireland, has endorsed this week’s call by RGDATA, the umbrella group for local shops, for a levy to be imposed on car-parking at out-of-town shopping centres.
According to the cyclists a vibrant, locally-based retail sector is important if walking and cycling for transport are to grow and prosper. Cyclist.ie chair Dr. Michael McKillen said “we cannot expect people to walk or cycle to local shops that have been put out of business by unfair and uncompetitive parking policies. Out of town shopping developments by their very nature tend to be at locations that are too far or too difficult to reach by bike or on foot”. Cycle Campaigners and RGDATA have previously supported each other in calls for the retention or reinstatement of the Groceries Order banning below cost selling by large multiples.
However, the Cyclists say caution is needed to ensure that on-street car parking in our towns and cities is not encouraged inappropriately. In fact, say the cyclists there is also a need for a similar levy on on-street car parking in towns and cities. According to the cyclists, many Irish local authorities have pursued the provision of paid car-parking to the detriment of state targets for more sustainable transport. Dr. McKillen continued “Irish local authorities have effectively become addicted to the discretionary income parking fees and fines represent”. The cyclists say that the setting aside of scarce road space for parked-cars has had the effect of removing road capacity for alternatives such as cycling. The classic example is the creation of one-way streets so as to justify dedicating one traffic lane to car-parking. Such schemes have made cycling in our towns systematically more awkward and inconvenient (by reducing permeability) and have increased unnecessary use of private cars.
The cyclists say that a carrot and stick approach is needed. Local councils need alternative sources of discretionary income through a balanced system of local taxation. At the same time, central Government needs to financially penalise parking policies that are counter-productive, resulting in one-way streets or the creation of hostile road conditions for walking and cycling. State levies on car-parking could help drive more sustainable policies where town-centre car-parking is available off-street but cars do not dominate our shared streetscapes. Overall say the cyclists, local shops and communities will benefit in the long run by being located in areas that provide a more attractive shopping experience because they are not dominated by unnecessary car-traffic.