Letters: ‘Free’ car parking comes at a price

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Dear Editor,

Christmas is approaching and councillors’ thoughts have turned to how to support town-centre businesses. Once again, there is an argument between other parties about precisely how much subsidised parking to give away.

In truth, though, evidence from both Sustrans and the Local Government Association show that people overestimate how many potential customers travel by car.

The evidence shows that the greener route of cycle parking actually delivers five times higher retail spend than the same area of car parking.

What free car parking does is encourage more people to make journeys by car, even short journeys, which increases traffic and pollution.

This makes the town unpleasant for all and loses the health improvements people can get from cycling and walking.

Bedford benefits from an excellent variety of independent businesses that deserve our custom. The reduced number of customers has several causes.

These include increased attraction of shopping online, and some people remaining understandably cautious about being in busy areas.

In addition, out of town retail certainly doesn’t help the town centre.

What will encourage people to visit Bedford town centre will be varied entertainment and events, combined with factors like feeling safe, access to enough public toilets, good disabled access, and proper safe routes for cyclists.

Everyone likes a ‘freebie’, but ‘free’ parking actually comes at a price.

Maintenance of council car parks has to be paid for, by council taxpayers if not by the drivers themselves. Somebody also has to pay the price of worse health and the price of pollution.

If the Council really is serious about addressing the Climate Emergency and about encouraging walking, cycling and use of public transport, Greens say it needs to stop obsessing about free parking and instead look to the many thriving cities that don’t allow so much to revolve around cars and car parking.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Lucy Bywater & Councillor Ben Foley
(Green Party, Castle ward)

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