Post-Lockdown Mobility webinar report: Parking matters -- current and future measures in times of COVID-19


The session was chaired by Ivo Cré, Director of Policy and Projects at POLIS. Actions on parking management have varied widely across cities and regions, with many demonstrating good practices such as offering free parking for health workers. With space in cities scarce, and many competing demands, the actions being taken on parking at this time are of great importance for urban mobility. What role will parking play in the economic recovery of cities? Will cities prioritise parking for cars, or reallocate parking spaces for walking and cycling?

Olivier Asselin, Lille Metropolitan Area
Since 11 May, France has been gradually easing lockdown measures, and this has brought changes for parking too. Olivier set out some key observations about parking in French cities during and after lockdown. Most, if not all French cities stopped controlling on-street parking during lockdown. Off-street parking saw a fall in demand of around 95%, with some cities closing car parks, whilst others prioritised car parks for health workers or opened them up for free use. In many cities, including Lille, parking spaces are being reallocated to support sustainable mobility and social distancing, such as for cycling, parklets, bike parking and queuing outside shops. In Lille, the pedestrian zone in the city centre has been doubled in size to help with social distancing.

Many French cities are now re-starting enforcement of parking, but each city is taking its own approach. Some cities are adapting rules once re-enforcement starts, for example offering longer time frames for free parking than before lockdown. Olivier noted that uncertainties exist in who pays for losses in situations where car parks are publicly owned by privately managed. Discussions are ongoing to resolve this issue through potential compensation or contract extensions.

Karen Mounier, City of La Rochelle
Like other cities, La Rochelle has taken numerous steps to adapt parking during COVID-19. On-street parking has been made free, with parking meters protected to avoid people touching these surfaces. For off-street parking (e.g. car parks), parking has been made free for all to use, with one car park reserved exclusively for health workers. With no parking to enforce, parking officers have been redeployed to help the city in other ways. Officers have been controlling parking in prohibited areas, controlling gatherings and activity at beaches and parks, separating groups, and distributing food to vulnerable groups. Extra steps have been taken to protect staff, including closing public reception buildings, distributing masks, gloves and hand gel to on-site parking officers, and time scheduling to avoid officers coming into contact with each other.

As France now moves into the post-lockdown phase, La Rochelle has announced that on-street parking will be free until 15 June, whilst off-street parking will be free until 1 July. Contactless payment is being encouraged for payment for parking to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Pedestrian areas will be expanded in the coming weeks and months to allow more space for walking and cycling, whilst street space will be increased to provide more seating outside bars and restaurants.

Jose Cordovilla and Maria Dolores Ortiz Sanchez, City of Madrid
Jose and Maria introduced the ‘#InfraestructurasCovid’ (#CovidInfrastructure) initiative, a collaborative response in Madrid providing coordination and knowledge sharing on adapting infrastructure for COVID-19. The initiative is publishing a number of guides, including one report providing guidance for using car parks as COVID-19 testing sites. Car parks make ideal places for testing sites, given their closed environment, security and lighting systems, and well-known locations in densely populated areas. Jose discussed the need to maximise flow when testing, and the importance of setting up the car park system accordingly to ensure people can be testing quickly and efficiently. Jose highlighted that car parks can be set up as either static circuits, where people drive to specific spaces and are tested from there; or dynamic circuits, where pre-established routes with specific zones which people drive through. #InfraestructurasCovid has developed guidance to highlighting the criteria for whether a car park is suitable for use as a COVID-19 testing area, including information on layout, capacity, signage and facilities for staff. The report is free to download (in English) here.

Andrew Luck, LEPT – London Councils

Andrew provided an overview of London’s parking management response to COVID-19. London has 33 local councils operating within the city, and has seen major changes to parking in recent months. The UK entered lockdown on 23 March, but discussions were ongoing regarding changes to parking management as early as 10 March with key authorities. Parking demand is down 70% on- and off-street in London, resulting in income from parking enforcement being down by 85%. Across London over 110,000 free parking permits have been issued by the London Boroughs for health workers.

London Councils have been publishing parking guidance in association with the Local Government Association (LGA) and the British Parking Association (BPA) to promote best practice for local authorities in London and beyond. The first edition of this guidance, published in March, provided various recommendations, including advising local authorities to concentrate on only serious or dangerous parking offences and to advise rather than penalise as a first approach. The guidance also recommended offering help and support for health workers through free parking, particularly around hospitals. Further editions of this guidance have been published in April and May, making additional recommendations such as parking provisions for other key workers, temporary exemptions for expired resident parking permits and delayed debt collection for unpaid parking fines. A new app has also been launched by the BPA highlighting free parking for health workers.

With lockdown now gradually easing in the UK, Andrew noted that a flexible approach will be needed with changes to parking. Additional road space will be needed for walking and cycling and this must be enforced to keep people safe. New legislation to enforce cycle lanes through CCTV will help to keep these spaces safe from vehicles. However, adequate parking spaces should be retained, and extra access for freight will be required in the coming months. New rules and policies should be clearly communicated to ensure that all are aware of new parking conditions. With e-scooters now legal in the UK, efforts will need to be made to properly integrate micromobility with parking management in towns and cities.

A recording of this session and all presentations can be found in the Members Area of our website (please log in to view). Further details of the Post-Lockdown Mobility webinar series can be found here.


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