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Should parking spaces be SUV sized?

Accidents in car parks are becoming more common. Many cars, especially SUVs, are too wide for old-style parking spaces and have scrapes on the sides to prove it.

One UK courtesy car provider, Accident Exchange, quotes a 35% rise in car park accidents since 2014 to around 2,000 prangs per day. It is not surprising, considering how crowded many car parks have become and how small the spaces, compared to what one journalist cheekily quipped: “a vehicular obesity epidemic”.

National Car Parks (UK) is already in the process of widening parking bays in cities like London and Manchester, which begs the question whether car parking bays should be widened in Sydney or Melbourne. But it is not a simple matter. Widening parking bays creates less parking overall, which could be seen as an unfair penalty on drivers of smaller cars.

Perhaps a more interesting question is: should we eliminate city parking altogether?

Is parking on the way out?

According to Colliers, the real estate company, Sydney has added only 766 parking bays since 2007. The City of Sydney says it aims to cut the number of new parking spaces by 50% before 2030. Throughout Australia, many car parking stations are already being demolished to put up office or apartment buildings.

In Europe are a few clear signs that parking in cities is on the way out.

Zurich decided 10 years ago to stop the creation of any more parking spaces. Developers wanting to create new parking spaces had to remove the same number from the city’s streets. Copenhagen reduced parking in the city, by making shopping streets pedestrian only. It  also raised the prices of parking and licensing, and placed car parking underground.

These changes made a big difference to those cities. More people walk, cycle and use public transport in Zurich and fewer people – 16% from 22% – drive to work in Copenhagen.

What about the suburbs?

City dwellers might wonder whether it is better to create wider spaces for bigger cars like SUVs, or deter them from entering the CBD. But for people who live or shop in the suburbs, it would be unthinkable to buy the week’s groceries without having somewhere to park.

Robots can park cars in smaller spaces than many humans. Already premium parking at some airports, like Dusseldorf, is automated. One day, people will probably access fleets of driverless cars for driving to airports or shopping. These vehicles will not need parking spaces, except for a temporary stop.

The future of parking spaces, whether wide or narrow, looks decidedly uncertain.

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