Asking the right question

Eric Pickles quite justifiably took a lot of flak for his proposals to grant free parking to people who can’t use their watch.
But almost more offensive than the policy itself was the dumb way in which it’s proposed. If the answer is always about the car, Eric Pickles is asking the wrong question.

The Pickles View

In Pickles-land, the world is very simple.


People use cars to give them happiness, freedom and convenience.

So how can we make this better?


Yes! More parking! Convenience for people who can’t tell the time!


But these are hypotheses. We don’t know and Eric Pickles doesn’t know that convenient parking is what drivers want, any more than that driving cars leads to these outcomes. Pickles is hypothesising, but has no measures other than the wailing of the pro-car lobby such as the Daily Mail.

So what else is there? Well, let’s look at other outcomes that people might want:


Let’s try less pollution. And what about quietness? When the Ride 100 goes through Kingston, the quiet hum of bike wheels is wonderful – I can actually hold a conversation with my son while walking along the main road. Might this not be desirable? And if one walks into any town in rush hour, you can simply taste the pollution.

So how might we meet these extra desires?


Well, we could do worse than copying the Dutch, who are very good with people safety, health and having quiet and pleasant cities. So in doing so, we hypothesise that riding and walking will meet these desired outcomes. A hypothesis requires a metric, so we could monitor pollution levels, noise, number of accidents, take up of bike lanes once infrastructure is put in.

So now we look at the supporting infrastructure.


It’s simple really. If we’re going to try granting extra time on parking, we should also try to meet voter needs with segregated bike lanes and better environments for walking. This is a hypothesis, but based so heavily on things that have worked elsewhere that the risk of them not working is minimal.


And there we have it. How to put forward a coherent argument for infrastructure. Pickles may think he’s clever for getting a headline grabber, but has most likely left a vast amount of unfilled need on the table. And for a politician, that’s a dangerous place to be. Simply put, he’s out of touch and a relic of the past.


This thinking is heavily stolen from my recent working with Chris Matts. You can read his stuff over here


Author: Stuff Rich Writes

Cyclist and Product Manager. I blog about both.

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