We've got a car. We usually don't, but right now we've got one for various reasons. This will most likely be a temporary hiatus in an otherwise unblemished car-ownership free lifestyle for us. Its not used most of the time, it isn't for commuting (thats what bikes are for) and a key selection criterion was that it would fit on the driveway without blocking the garage door so we can get in and get bikes out - the car is stored entirely in our space.
Our neighbours have cars. On one side they keep the car in their garage. On the other, a larger family has I think at last count 3 cars, no driveway, and no garage, so they take up an awful lot of room on the road and pavement storing their stuff. Which seems a bloody liberty to me. Right across Cambridge and indeed across the suburbs throughout Britain this is an issue. Roads designed for the the storage of a few cars without too much trouble now have dozens of private vehicles clogging the place up - this means crossing is a challenge, playing there is a complete impossibility, and frankly its ugly and dehumanising. The people storing cars there are taking from the rest of us, for free - by which I mean that space is a joint asset, it belongs to all of us whether we drive or not, whether we want to walk, play, ride or drive along there.
The blight of fly-parking is so prevalent that at almost any open forum between Councillors and residents its one of the most frequently aired concerns. And there will be an old codger, probably with a beard, who wants to blame commuters, immigrants, parents, cyclists, you name it anyone but the old codgers. The result may be a 'residents parking zone', which resolves nothing for anyone who isn't a fly-parker. So you've stopped people parking there so you can, but the net result is a road thats still hostile to anyone crossing, walking down, riding along or playing in? How is that better for anyone but you? Bluntly, why are you more important than anyone else? Oh, you're old, you hate people and you have a beard, is that it?
You may own a car. You may own a cycle. You may not have either. Your ownership of the road, including the nice convenient bit close to your home, is not greater than that of anyone else in the UK. You have no specific right to that space. The road by your home was not primarily designed such that you can keep your stuff there. Through that effective privatisation of pubic space you're taking the rights of others away purely for your own gain, and that you may expect to do so for free is, frankly, ludicrous.
Take my neighbours with 3 cars. I could go and pay for a standard shipping container to be stored in the street, and that would be every bit as valid. Whats that, they need their cars to go to work? And? Seriously, why are you making that my problem? Its got nothing to do with me, I gain more from my back street having clear lines of visibility for people to see where they're going without cars blocking the way for any other kind of use. And I'd gain more still by having a shipping container I could maybe rent storage space out in - heck, there could be a hairdressers salon in there, it could create jobs. It could make me, and others, money, and end up paying business rates. Whats that, you say, the road isn't for that? Its not for me to store stuff in? Yes, thats my freaking point.
We need to move past accepting the bland assertion that storing private property in public space is always alright. It isn't. If your life choices have led you to a point where such is a necessity for you then you made bad life choices - and thats your problem, not mine. Want to store your stuff in public? Lets decide on the optimal amount of space to set aside for that in a suburban street and then charge accordingly, so that we only see that much space used up. It'll be a street-by-street calculation, but the profits for beleaguered local authorities across the UK are substantial, and we'll see a huge improvement in our streetscapes (safer, cleaner, faster - better for everyone not too selfish to put their own storage needs first) as a result.
Motorists, start paying your way. Its really that simple.