Thursday, 06 September 2007

Move along now please To continue the themes of officialdom and the policing of the public realm... there's an article in the latest Living Streets newsletter (subscribe) in which outgoing Chief Exec Tom Franklin describes his day shadowing a traffic warden (unh, make that 'parking attendant') (which sounds like someone who guides you into a space within sight of the kerb). The article reminds us how vilified these public servants are; and it made me wonder to what extent their work might get the support of those who leapt so vehemently to defend the Merseyrail official who brought a rail traveller to court for putting her feet on a seat. Tom talks about the 'total disrespect' and abuse some motorists showed for the attendant, but also the visible effectiveness of their presence. He offers three suggestions. First, that their role could be re-cast to include reporting of street issues such as abandoned vehicles or street lights out of order; and 'a bigger role in enforcing decent behaviour on our streets.' It seems to me this would put them more firmly into the 'extended family of policing': and it might also send a signal that motoring is only one of a number of overlapping sites of activity where the public realm needs to be monitored, as opposed to being such a dominant site that it needs its own force in addition to the police. Secondly, he calls for more backing to enable attendants to do their job without intimidation. And thirdly - with characteristic lateral thinking - Tom suggests that on a given day all parking attendants should be given the day off. 'It should be publicised widely - the chaos that would ensue might convince people of the vital role that parking attendants perform, and then perhaps they might be allowed to get on with their job.' (Unfortunately it might not have that effect). It's sad that Tom is himself moving along - to head up the Ramblers Association - but I wish him well in that role and I expect his name will crop up on this blog in due course. And in a similar vein it's an appropriate moment to pay tribute to Bill Sticker, now retired as a parking enforcement officer and travelling in Canada, but still blogging and Walking the streets.

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