I noticed one of your readers’ letters recently alighted on one of my favourite subjects – parking.
Regular readers of my column – well, okay, my mother – will know that I used to be editor of a fabulous little magazine called Parking News.
It was so popular that it appeared on Have I Got News For You and Mock the Week, as well as getting a name-check in The New Statesman.
All of which, I feel, gives me licence to talk about parking.
The issue under discussion was the question of Blue Badge parking and I agree with the letter’s author, Mike Larcey, that there is a fair amount of abuse of the scheme.
I imagine that Blue Badge-related crime is less prevalent here than in some of the large cities in the UK.
I wrote one story about Blue Badges changing hands for upwards of £5,000 in Edinburgh, because of the access to parking they gave in that space-strapped city.
I regularly spoke to civil enforcement officers (the proper name for traffic wardens) about the times they had seen very able-bodied people step out of a car and nip to the shops while they parked their aunt’s car, complete with Blue Badge, in a disabled bay.
Speaking to representatives from various motoring groups, including Disabled Motoring UK, I found that, while the misuse of Blue Badges was an annoying problem for genuine Blue Badge holders, there were some other issues that caused even more strife, irritation or even danger to disabled motorists:
l Disabled parking spaces on a hill – not great when you are trying to manoeuvre yourself or a companion into a wheelchair.
l A long line of disabled spaces in front of a supermarket, meaning that some of the disabled parking bays at the end of the line are further from the shop than many able-bodied parking spaces.
l A parking bay which is too small to be able to unload a wheelchair from the side door.
l A parking bay where the rear of the car is almost directly in the way of circling traffic – again, not great when unloading a wheelchair.
l Disabled parking payment station that is a long way from the actual parking bays.
l Or, in the case of one car park in a large, nearby city, a pedestrian crossing that takes you from the disabled parking space into the shopping centre that is on a blind corner.
Not for a moment am I suggesting that the good folk at the Borough of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk are guilty of these things, but these are real examples of how little thought sometimes goes into the planning and placement of disabled bays.
However, back to the original point, abuse of the Blue Badge scheme, and my one thought would be: before you take that disabled parking space, think twice and put yourself into the shoes of a person with disabilities.