Wednesday 29 October 2008

Hospital parking

Like most car-parks in Assen, most of the time, the free car
park at the hospital doesn't ever seem to fill up.
My primary interest in in cycling, not driving. It's not often that I come to the defence of motorists. However, there have been stories recently in the UK about the cost of hospital parking which remind me about how it was when my children were born.

Due to a lack of viable options for taking my wife to hospital and bringing her and our newborn child home, I learnt to drive when my wife was pregnant with our first child. This meant driving to Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, having to find the right loose change to pay for parking, being stressed about the possibility of getting a parking ticket and having to go out and feed the meter again at an inconvenient time while awaiting the delivery our of child.

The bike parking does sometimes fill up. Not today, though
It struck me then as a mean-spirited thing to do. It still seems like it too.

The parking situation at Addenbrookes is still in the news. While there might be a case for some pressure to get employees at the hospital to take alternative forms of transport, the patients are not generally going to hospital for fun, but because they have to. It's really not the time to try to change behaviour.

Over here in Assen, hospital car parking is free. There is also good quality cycle parking. On the day I took these photos neither were full. The problem complained of by residents around Addenbrookes doesn't exist here. In fact, while car parking often causes consternation for British people, it is rarely an issue in the Netherlands. There are adequate spaces where there need to be spaces, and relatively little need for parking because of people cycling for a large proportion of journeys.

There is a tendency in the UK for policies like this to be applauded by cyclists on the grounds that at least "something is being done" to encourage people out of cars. However I don't think it's helpful at all. Quite apart from the fact that it's a remarkable negative publicity campaign to go around hassling people when they are ill, I also believe it to be rather silly to get too excited about people being hassled out of cars on less than 1% of their journeys. These are not the journeys that need changing. What is needed to make a real difference is for people to be attracted out of cars on some proportion of the other 99% of their journeys. Perhaps once cycling is made into a safe and convenient option for normal people on an everyday basis, they'll also feel more like cycling for exceptional journeys such as to hospital.

In the Netherlands, more carrot is used than stick. It's lead to considerably more cycling than elsewhere, while driving has remained comparatively hassle free.

Read more articles about cycling and health and more about how parking in Assen is very often free of charge or inexpensive.

Car parking is also either free or inexpensive at other hospitals in the Netherlands. One hospital in Rotterdam offers a valet parking service which includes parking for €7 per day.


Nick said...

It doesn't pay to generalise, David. Hospital parking isn't free everywhere in NL. Where I live you have to pay for it - though it's not really expensive and you don't have to keep running out to the car to top up the fee (you just pay at the end, the amount depending on the time you've been there). But free it ain't!

David Hembrow said...

Fair comment, Nick. In Assen it's free, and that may well be exceptional.

What I'm really railing against is that it seems to be yet another way in which conflict is introduced into life in the UK.

It's enough of a problem in Cambridge that it's become a news story several times.

Nick said...

I think that conflict - rather than simply being introduced into life in the UK - has now BECOME a way of life there, which is sad.

Anneke said...

In my city hospital parking isn't free either, but only for visitors. That is, you can just get in at any time, but to get out you have to get a certain coin. If you're a patient you get that coin when you sign out to open the barrier to get out of the parking lot, but if you're a visitor you have to go to a machine to get a coin, and then you have to pay for it.

That being said, there are lots of bicycle parkings spread out over the terrain, each building/entry has one. So if you take the bike, you pay nothing and you can closer to the buildings.