In recent years the rise of digital services such as Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo has changed the way that we consume goods and travel around the city. Londoners are driving less, but we have more goods and services delivered to our doorstep: in addition to a growing population, this has placed our transport system – and especially our finite road space – under mounting pressure.
Congestion has also worsened, and London has one of the worst traffic levels of all European cities, 1 placing a heavy burden on its economy and environment. While London’s roads have become safer, hundreds of people are still killed and thousands seriously injured on our roads every year, with the bulk of these being vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists or motorcyclists).
Air pollution levels regularly exceed international limits and, alongside low physical activity levels, affect Londoners’ health and wellbeing. While some industries have made big strides in reducing carbon dioxide, emissions from the transport sector have continued to increase. A shift away from petrol and diesel in favour of electric vehicles can help reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. But electric vehicles still generate non-tailpipe pollution (from tyre, brake and road wear), as well as carbon emissions (in the process of manufacturing, disposal and charging – if the energy used is not from renewable sources). They also contribute to congestion and road danger, and take up the same amount of space on the roads as “ordinary” cars.
There is now a growing consensus among city and borough policymakers that, if we are to accommodate a growing population in a sustainable way and improve quality of life for everyone in the city, we need not only cleaner cars but also fewer cars. We need to encourage greater use of the most efficient, sustainable, healthy forms of travel, reduce our overall reliance on cars, and use vehicles as efficiently as possible where their use is unavoidable (through shared journeys and fully loaded delivery vehicles, for example). The Mayor of London is leading the way, with the Transport Strategy setting a target that the proportion of all journeys made by public transport, walking and cycling needs to increase from 63 per cent (currently) to 80 per cent by 2041, representing a net reduction of three million car journeys a day. 2
The number of private car journeys in London is falling, but car ownership remains relatively stable. For those who don’t need to use their cars regularly, the availability and cost of parking space can influence whether they retain them or instead shift to walking, cycling, public transport or shared vehicles.
This report examines how boroughs can use their parking policies to make a difference, but it also looks at the allocation of kerb space to different uses more broadly. This is because the kerbside is used not only by residents but also by visitors, businesses, tradespeople, taxis, delivery vans and bikes. The amount of kerb space allocated to vehicles and people can be a significant factor in encouraging travel by public transport, walking and cycling – as well as driving.
There will of course continue to be a place for private cars in the short-to medium-term, particularly for people with mobility difficulties or in parts of London less well served by public transport. The shift toward sustainable transport cannot happen without providing Londoners with access to a wide range of attractive, affordable and accessible alternatives. This means large-scale investment in public transport capacity, prioritising road space for walking and cycling infrastructure, enabling shared vehicle use through car clubs and bike hire, and (potentially) creating mobility services such as demand responsive shuttles. Again, kerb space allocation has a major role to play in enabling these changes.
Parking can be viewed as a service to car-owning residents, and it is one that many Londoners rely on. However, almost half of London households do not own a car. Yet we all use our streets walk to the shops, visit our neighbours, and as public spaces to play, rest and socialise. This report argues for kerbside management to respond to the needs of all users and create a greener, healthier and more pleasant environment for the benefit of everyone.
Scope and methodology
The scope of this report is limited to on-street parking and other kerbside uses. While off-street parking also has big implications in terms of land use, only small parts of it are under borough control. In the case of new developments, Centre for London’s recent Building for a New Urban Mobility report argued that any parking provision in developments should be off-street, and designed such that the space can be converted to other uses as demand for private car use declines. 3
The findings in this report are based on research undertaken through a combination of methods, including:
- Data analysis. Literature review and analysis of publicly available datasets, as well as information supplied to us by kerb management company AppyWay.
- Interviews. To better understand the approaches and limitations of current parking policy, we approached transport policy leads at all London boroughs. 16 of the 33 authorities responded to our requests. We also interviewed a number of stakeholders engaged in related policy and practice areas.
- Survey. To gain insight into the public’s views of parking and other kerbside uses, we commissioned polling company Savanta ComRes to undertake a survey of Londoners: 1,005 London residents were interviewed online between 17 and 23 January 2020. (Data is representative of all London residents by age, gender, region and car ownership. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.)
Chapter 1 of this report examines how Londoners’ car usage has changed over time, how this differs across the capital, and how much space is physically taken up by parked cars on our roads. Chapter 2 asks whether car owners are paying a fair price for storing their vehicles on public roads and utilises a number of different methods to estimate the monetary value of a parking space. Chapter 3 examines the value Londoners place on other street uses and how the priorities of car owners and non-car owners compare. Chapter 4 summarises London boroughs’ current approaches to parking policy and the limitations many of them face. Finally, Chapter 5 makes recommendations on the measures that boroughs should deploy in order to rebalance kerb space with the needs of all users in mind.