The ever-shrinking parking space: are UK car bays really getting smaller? | Life and style

Name: Parking spaces.

Age: Los Angeles got its first car park – possibly the first car park – in 1922.

Appearance: vehicle-sized rectangle, and shrinking.

Parking spaces are getting smaller? Either that, or the cars are getting bigger, relatively.

Which is it? Both. At the Belle Vue short-stay car park in Saltash, Cornwall, some of the spaces are barely half a car length.

That’s annoying. That’s what they’re saying in Saltash, with one commenter suggesting those using the mini-spaces should only be charged half the fee.

How big is a space supposed to be, anyway? The British Parking Association says that 2.4 by 4.8 metres is “the current UK norm” for an off-street bay, but there is no legal minimum.

What about street spaces? On-street bays have a minimum width of 1.8 metres.

That sounds like plenty of room, as long as you’re good at parking. It’s not enough space for a Range Rover Vogue, which is two metres wide and five metres long.

Is that the biggest SUV going? By no means – the Mercedes GLS is 5.2 metres long and 2.1 wide.

Even if you could park that, you’d never be able to open the doors. Maybe the people who own them live in them.

It’s ridiculous that these monstrous phallic symbols are allowed on the streets, much less in car parks. But small cars are also pretty big these days: A 1970s-era Volkswagen Golf was 1.7 metres across, but the newest ones are just over two metres with the mirrors out, as wide as a Range Rover.

Our cars are becoming obese? It seems like it. Even some new models of the now inappropriately named Mini are 1.8 metres across.

Surely there’s a maximum legal width for a private vehicle. Fortunately there is. Unfortunately, it’s 2.55 metres, mirrors excluded.

Where will this madness end? At the moment, it’s leading to a steady rise in parking accidents, as well as to bigger bays in some cases.

In some cases? In 2016, National Car Parks began widening a number of its bays to accommodate larger vehicles, although bigger spaces also means fewer spaces. Other garages and car parks have followed suit.

But not in Saltash. No. With its cheeky half spaces, Saltash is bucking the trend.

Do say: “You can’t park here. Or anywhere, apparently.”

Don’t say: Just sell your gas-guzzling ego machine and buy a pocket-sized Smart car

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