Another rant

I just read that a wealthy Aberdeen oil tycoon and his wife have donated £10 million to the hospital in Aberdeen for a new car park. Apparently the wife went to visit friends at the hospital and had problems finding a park. Here’s how I feel about this:

Car parking is not a good investment for the community. We live in a very car-centric society, to the detriment of our health and our environment. Building more carparks will not help transition our society away from car-dependence. Indeed it will only entrench it further and encourage more motorists leading to more pollution and more congestion none of which is good for our health or the health of the NHS.

I realise not everyone will be able to walk, cycle, or catch a bus or taxi to the hospital, so let’s save the existing parking spaces for people who have no choice while encouraging the rest of us to choose a healthier mode of transportation – and perhaps save the NHS some money over the longer term through cleaner air and exercise. If more of us opted to abandon our cars like our family has done then roads will be less congested for those who still want to use private cars.

I can’t think of a better way to help the NHS than to encourage people to walk and cycle rather than drive their cars. A study conducted by the Universities of Leeds and Cambridge found that we could save the NHS £1 billion per year by 2025 if we invested more to encourage cycling.

Car parks do not encourage people to walk and cycle. I suppose the only good thing about it is that at least the NHS is not funding it but they wouldn’t have built it anyway and a new car park is not going to do the NHS any favours over the long term.

I’m not the only person who feels this way. Apparently the new chief executive at Black Country Hospital in Wolverhampton is appalled that £4 million is being spent on new parking spaces for the hospital when some 500 members of staff are driving less than 1km to work each day. This money could have instead been used to buy three MRI scanners and six CT scanners.

Rich people are free to spend their money on whatever they want, but the rest of us are free to criticise their decisions especially when all of us suffer the consequences of car exhaust air pollution, traffic congestion, and escalating health costs of which our sedentary lifestyle plays a significant role.

20 thoughts on “Another rant

  1. Great rant. You would think there would be many other more appropriate ways to benefit the hospital. We have several large, annual fund raising events for the local hospitals and I have never once heard anyone suggest committing the funds to a car park. I seldom drive but when I do, I loath trying to find parking. That’s incentive enough for me to use other means of transport. Thanks for drawing attention to this issue.

  2. Hmmm. Fundamentally I agree with you, and £10m for a car park is a ludicrous amount of money! Staff should be encouraged to cycle or get the bus where possible.

    However, as someone who spends a lot of time in hospital, I would counter that the majority of people I see on hospital premises (apart from staff) are usually elderly and/or have severe mobility issues. Clearly it’s unrealistic to expect these people to get public transport to/from hospital. The hospital you end up in may also not be local. I’ve had to use a hospital some 20 miles away. I can’t cycle there or take public transport after an operation – I need either an expensive taxi or a relative to collect me. This is where the biggest pressure is that I see at all the hospitals I use: visitors who are collecting or visiting the elderly and/or infirm, and again often from areas where it’s impractical (for most) to hop on a bike.

    But 10 mill! Jeez…

    1. Yes, I agree that hospitals more than other places have a need for car parks for the reason you give. However not all patients and certainly not the visitors of patients need to drive there. I have been a patient at Aberdeen hospital and I walked the 3 miles or so it was to get there and then walked home again afterwards. It was just an eye exam so not every patient is in capacitated as I certainly was not. I could have caught a taxi too which would probably have been cheaper than paying for parking but walking was even cheaper.

      The other advantage of building cycle-friendly pathways is that people who have no choice but to drive private cars benefit from more parking spaces and less traffic. I found a blog post from someone in Assen in the Netherlands where there’s always heaps of hospital parking because people who don’t need to drive don’t drive.

      Before they built their cycle paths, they had the same problem we face now:

    2. Interesting arguments on both sides, but I’d forgotten about that – due to budget cuts, we have fewer hospitals these days and so further apart than they were before. I think I’m OK with extra car parking in hospitals. It can be a really stressful time when people are ill and sometimes it’s just easier to take the car. Even for minor appointments, if you work full time, you already have to take time off to make the appointment, so I can see adding more transport time on top would be impractical for many people. We just need a better public transport policy/plan in general in the UK.

    1. Yes, there are certainly people who have no choice but to use a private car which is why having alternatives for those of us who don’t need a car would be more helpful for these people than building new car parks as it would free up space for them without having to spend all that money.

  3. I totally agree with you, hospitals need better public transport rather than acres of car parking. The only comment I have to make about this pertains to staff parking. I would LOVE to walk or run to work, I don’t live far from my hospital and I used to always walk/run everywhere. Unfortunately hospital staff work odd hours, sometimes finishing at 11pm, sometimes 7am etc when it is still dark. For some reason hospitals are always a bit dodgy and I’m not even allowed to cross the road after the sun goes down. That means I’m stuck driving my car. Even if I wanted to catch the bus it doesn’t run either before or after my shifts. It seems like hospital staff have no other option 😞

    1. What about cycling to and from work? I used to finish work in Cambridge at 7pm at Addenbrookes hospital and then ride my bike home everyday for 18 months. I never felt unsafe but it might be different in your part of the world. The advantage of this is that bicycle parking is usually right near the entrance (at least it should be) and so you don’t have to walk through a dark and dodgy carpark to get back to your car. But I probably wouldn’t have done this if I’d finished work at 11pm or later. In those instances I think a private car is probably, sadly, necessary.

      1. There is a bicycle path but it runs through some creepy bush land. Unfortunately there are a few rough areas near the hospital and I’m not sure I’d feel that safe. Isn’t that sad!

      2. Fair enough. You have to keep safe and also to feel safe. Often they don’t bother lighting up bicycle paths either.

        There isn’t any bushland here and the hospital does already have a car park. It’s also a very small city of just 200,000 people and you can walk pretty much everywhere. I do understand that hospitals need car parks, I just don’t think this particular hospital needs another one.

      3. I’m hoping I can walk/run to my next job. We’ve had lots of stabbings/shootings near us recently so I think I’ll stick with the car until then! We even had a serial killer in the 90s 😁 I’m all for more public transport and bike paths though!

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