Experts, campaigners and ordinary people line up against 15-minute spring shopping idea

Cycling activists and commentators have reacted with extreme scepticism to  MP Eric Pickles' suggestion of a 15-minute 'grace period' in which drivers will be allowed to park on double yellow lines.

Mr Pickles believes that letting people park on double yellow lines would help stem the decline of the high street by making shopping more attractive in towns rather than out-of-centre retail parks. 

Dame Sarah Storey, Britain's top paralympic athlete, took to Twitter to says: "New plans to allow motorists to park "briefly" on double yellow lines... Yet more ideas that will be a danger to cyclists :-("

Transport commentator Christian Wolmar, who is seeking the Labour Party nomination for Mayor of London, tweeted that the notion was: "A bad idea; 15 mins parking on dble yellow lines will lead to chaos, not more business. Instead, improve modes such as walking and cycling."

Sustrans’ Policy Director, Jason Torrance, said: “The assumption that making it easier to drive to the shops will save the high street is fundamentally wrong - the last thing that our high streets need is more parking, more traffic and more congestion.

Double yellow lines are often used to prevent parking in bike lanes.
(copyright The_Chauffeur/Flickr)

“Rather than encouraging councils to create dangerous, noisy and congested high streets, the government needs to lead a renaissance - making our streets more vibrant places where people want to meet, socialise and spend time doing their weekly shopping.

“By slowing speeds and discouraging parking, our high streets will become a hub for walking and cycling, creating an atmosphere where people want to linger and boosting local economies.”

Islington Cyclists Action Grpups said: "If Mr Pickles cycled around London for 30 minutes he would quickly appreciate the value of double yellow lines!"

Friendly streets, slower streets, profitable streets

There is considerable evidence that making high streets more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians increases business because people travelling more slowly are more likely to linger and buy more.

"Streets that prioritize walking and biking, incorporated with amenities such as pedestrian plazas, have proven to boost local retail sales by 10-25 percent in cities around the world," according to US advocacy organisation Transportation Alternatives.

The most famous recent example of this effect is that of the first protected bike lane installed in New York. Businesses on 9th Avenue saw a 49 percent rise in retail sales, compared to 3 percent across Manhattan as a whole, according to research by the New York City Department of Transportation, cited by Yes! Magazine. Researchers at Portland State University found that shoppers who arrive by bike spend 24 percent more at stores per month than those who drive.

But it's not just bike advocates and transport planners who are aghast at Pickles' idea allowing people 15 minutes to sprint round a Tesco Express. Plenty of apparently ordinary members of the public are unimpressed too.

Jamie Wallace (@JRWStudio) said: "Isn't this what single yellow lines are for? and double used when it's dangerous or a serious obstruction?"

Chris Lovell (@ChrisLovellGB) tweeted: "Would cause a bit of a jam in many #Birmingham streets if introduced."

And Matt Langford (@mrmattlangford) spoke for many when he tweeted: "Double yellow lines parking plan. Stupid idea! People won't bother with car parks and jam up the streets!"


Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.