Contradiction of Car Parking
3rd January 2021

Contradiction of Car Parking

Bicester's town centre is struggling, plain for all to see from the number of empty shops lining Sheep Street. Only recently Marks and Spencer's abandoned their spot in the centre for a shiny new address at the new Bicester Retail Park leaving behind another empty property. Free and plentiful car parking is often touted as a major reason for the attraction of these out of town retail parks, cheaper rents for retailers and 'convenience' for customers. However there is growing evidence from around the UK and abroad that this model of car centric retail is not only bad for town centres, but also for towns as a whole and are certainly not something the high streets should look to emulate.

Let's first look at the reasons why it is not sensible for town centres to try to compete on the basis of ease of car access and convenient parking. What's more lets use Bicester as a worked example. Car parking in Bicester town centre is available at a number of official locations and is informally/illegally used at a number of other places.  All parking is time limited, whether through the charge per hour or Market Square, Cattle Market, the hybrid free/pay at Sainsbury’s or parking on double yellow lines around Market Square and Sheep Street.  Often it is argued that to rejuvenate Bicester centre, parking should be made free and more plentiful, following the logic that having to pay for parking is a significant barrier to attracting customers to the shops. I would like to suggest that this is a false economy and alternatives need to be found for the town centre that do not revolve around cars.

First a stark example, or reminder, of how much space car parking takes up. In pure surface area, the car space alone takes up 12.5m2, and with access etc the full space requirement is more like 25m2, given that the average occupancy of a car is 1.7 people and that over 50% of cars have only the driver as the sole occupant then we can start to see the area of space needed to accommodate a moderate number of shoppers. Market square has

| Car Park | Spaces | Time Limit | | Market Square | | |

| Bike Park | Spaces | Time Limit | | Sheep Street West | | none | | Sheep Street East | | none |

What is the price of parking?

Audit numbers of town centre car parking. Comparison with out of town centres and Tesco

How much of Bicester is covered in cars? Don’t forget to multiply by two for the space needed to cater for journeys within the town!

Message: inefficiency of car parking in terms of space and time, I.e. blocking access to others