Free parking an "empty gesture"

Published: 28 May 2009

A council that scrapped free motorcycle parking is accused of "trying to spin their way out of more bad publicity" over the move.

London’s Westminster City Council has announced its scrapping of on-street free bike parking will become permanent from August while 900 free spaces will be offered in council car parks from next week.

But Labour councillors say the free parking offer is an “empty and meaningless gesture” since few motorcyclists want to use off-street spaces.

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said: "The council's position is looking sillier with every day that passes. How can it be fair or make financial sense to offer free motorbike parking in expensively-run car parks and yet charge motorbike owners to park in the street?

"The fact of the matter is that very few motorbike owners want or need to park in a car park so the 900 bike spaces in council car parks are rarely used. Offering them for free will not help the vast majority of motorbike users. Simply put, Westminster's 'offer' of free parking in car parks is a totally empty and meaningless gesture aimed at trying to spin their way out of more bad publicity".

The council has also dropped the new daily charge for using traditionally free on-street bike parking bays from £1.50 to £1 and an annual permit from £150 to £100.
Over one in five parking fines under the scheme have been issued incorrectly, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. From the introduction of the charge last August until the end of March 24,649 fines were issued but 5,426 were successfully challenged.

Westminster City Council declined to comment.

In February the council failed to disclose its full income from the scheme. Conservative Cllr Danny Chalkley revealed £886,000 from the charge itself without mentioning another £436,000 from fines.

The council has refused to respond to MCN’s questions since we asked why the full income was not disclosed. An automatic reply to one of our recent emails said it had been ‘deleted without being read’ by a press officer.  

Campaigners say free bike bays will be lost elsewhere unless Westminster’s scheme is scrapped. Find details on the next protest ride at: www.notobikeparkingfees.com