This is a letter that I sent to the mayor in February 6. I intend to expand this theme into a clearer document with more ideas as I have time and as I think of them. For now it's here to give other people ideas.
Topic: An idea or two to make our streets and gardens places to enjoy again.
Dear Mr Livingstone,
It's really heartening to see at your efforts to reverse the degradation of our quality of life in London with the congestion charging, more busses, the Trafalgar square transformation etc. Here is one of a few ideas that I have to do the same for residential streets.
At present, if I want to secure a parking space on the street outside my house (which many people seem to think essential these days), all I have to do is rip out my front garden and concrete it over. Very simple; but if I don't want to destroy my front garden, there is nothing that I can do to secure the parking space. As more and more people in my street remove their gardens, my parking will become more and more difficult, so that in the end I will have do the same, as has happened in so much of the city already.
The removal of the flora on a street has many effects: The streets are dustier without grass to fix the dust, they're hotter in the summer without evaporation from grass, shrubs and trees, less absorbent to water (adding to flash flooding) and windier as there's less to slow the air down. Thus the relaxing, calming and generally pleasurable green streets are replaced by a hostile barren concrete canyon streets, discouraging people from walking anywhere or even to garden those front gardens which remain. The fewer people in the streets the less safe they feel and so there is a vicious circle. With most houses having two or more vehicles, it also drastically adds to traffic. Permit parking actually makes this problem much worse, as people also then have a financial incentive to create off-street parking.
I'd like to see the law changed so that residents (or the owner) of a property can pay to have the exclusive right to park outside their own property, as is already done for disabled drivers.
If the charge for securing street parking space were less than a charge to park in the front garden we'd be encouraged to park on the street and restore the gardens. If each property owner were also able to trade their parking rights to a neighbour it could provide many people with enough of an incentive to get rid of their own vehicles and use their legs, taxis, hired cars or public transport instead. The success with the IT system used for the congestion charge shows that such a system is now practical.
I have other ideas on this subject. If you find these ideas interesting, I'd be happy to write further.