Operators could be given freedom to reduce bay sizes
On the vexing subject of parking, you’d think the big squeeze that gets the average motorist’s goat the most is the relentless quest to extract every last penny from any driver who dares to stop their vehicle for longer than 30 seconds.
Good guess, but you’d be wrong.
A quick straw poll points to a far more sinister plot designed to make more money out of defenceless motorists.
We’re not talking about parking charges, but shrinking parking spaces that ensure it’s almost impossible – unless you drive a diminutive Dinky or your name’s Harry Houdini– to park your vehicle without damaging your car or hurting yourself.
Most spaces are tiny, and if the only one available is next to a car that’s not centred precisely in the neighbouring bay, you’re snookered. You could even end-up with an injury while struggling to extract yourself from a too-snug spot. Sounds familiar?
All the anecdotal evidence suggests that parking spaces, especially at supermarkets and in multi-storeys, must be getting smaller. Wrong again. Department for Transport rules governing car park space sizes have stayed the same since 1994 – a minimum width of 1.80m (5ft 11in) wide and 4.5m long.
Average car width has increased
That means, then, our cars must be getting bigger? Right this time – the average car width has increased by 16% in those two intervening decades. Manufacturers want to offer taller and fatter drivers more interior comfort and include more safety features, making modern models more than two inches meatier than the average puny parking space.
This giant mismatch has, according to Halfords, affected around 10 million car owners, who have suffered scuffs and scratches after scuffles in tight spaces, costing a massive £5m a year in repair bills for damaged paintwork.
Scrap minimum proportions
But make the most of that teeny, tiny parking space – it could get even smaller.
Things could be about to change for the better…or worse. The Government has consulted on plans to scrap the minimum proportions and allow local authorities to set the size of parking spaces. The theory is that this flexibility will result in larger spaces for bigger cars.
However, since it’s an obvious advantage for car park owners to squeeze-in as many vehicles as possible, it could also have the opposite effect – spaces could get even smaller, maximising revenue for operators because more bays equals more cars, and overhanging cars would also attract more penalty charges.
Maybe we should just be grateful. After all, aren’t small parking spaces are better than none at all?