We need to shift to a better system; one that prioritises people over private vehicles.
The huge amounts being charged by local councils to use on-street parking bays for anything other than parking - such as social spaces with seating, community gardens or cycle parking - have been revealed for the first time.
The climate charity Possible has obtained the fees charged by the local authorities in England's ten largest cities and discovered that a local resident who wants to "suspend" a parking bay for community use would have to pay 115 times more than they would for a parking permit for a private vehicle.
The average weekly cost of a parking bay suspension across the ten cities was £158.06, compared to the average weekly cost for a residential parking permit of just £1.38. Local residents might normally want to suspend parking bays for daylong events.
Hirra Khan Adeogun, head of Car Free Cities at Possible, said: “We’re letting private cars hold our public space hostage.
"The fact that some cities aren’t even charging for parking just goes to show how local politicians are missing opportunities to break cities free from car dominance. Most of the time private cars are going completely unused and taking up valuable public space.
"We need to shift to a better system; one that prioritises people over private vehicles, gives space for communities to thrive and makes them happier, healthier, and greener places to live.”
Bradford, Leeds, and Nottingham had no weekly charge for a parking permit while parking bay suspension weekly costs were £70.00, £187.60, and £23.38. In Liverpool, the weekly cost of a parking permit is only £0.04 while it costs £193.00 for a weekly parking bay suspension.
The other six cities, including the likes of London, Birmingham and Manchester charged more for parking permits but there were still considerable discrepancies between those costs and the cost of a parking bay suspension. Across these six cities, parking bay suspensions were between 33 and 353 times more expensive than a parking permit.
The figures reveal how cities in the UK prioritise the use of their public space - specifically, heavily incentivising the ownership of private vehicles that go unused for 95 percent of the time.
A spokesperson for Possible told The Ecologist: "The problem with the parking bay suspensions as they stand is there isn't really a consistent process in terms of how much people pay and how long they can suspend a space for.
"The main purpose that we've used them for is 'pop-up parklets' which have been events to help communities see what parking spaces can be instead of private car storage.
"We're advocating for councils to install a proper process to help residents install permanent parklets in order to permanently reclaim parking space and replace it with seating, cycle storage and greenery."
Possible is now calling on councils to reevaluate the costs of parking permits to fully reflect the costs of car ownership borne by the rest of society through pollution, road danger and loss of space.
The charity also wants councils to implement an affordable and easy process by which residents can reclaim public space in ways that bring communities together, reduce car dominance and help the climate.
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from Possible.