Through the eyes of a citizen…or…how to pass the hot potato

Wednesday 5th September 2018 and it’s started already. The very narrow cul-de-sac in which I live is packed full of cars trying to edge their way around one another, some are parked on the corner of the junction, most are parked on pathways, some are blocking the road completely and most annoyingly…… some are in our private driveways. The woman next door has already had one argument today with someone who refuses to get off her property and this has been going on for years. It’s got worse lately though. The school, at the other side of some woodland at the end of our cul-de-sac, has had a lot of policing regarding parking recently and now, instead of going to the front gates, parents come in round the back of the school, via our cul-de-sac, instead.

Isn’t it fenced off, then……… your street? I hear you ask. Well, yes, it was until the parents pushed the fence down to make a pathway through the woods to the school.

Every school day I see a near miss. Every school day I see children nearly hit by cars. Every school day, there is an argument.

It’s Sept 10th 2018 early in the morning and I get a text from a neighbour who asked someone to move down the street a little so she could pull out of her driveway. After being given a mouthful of abuse she is now frightened to be in the street alone. Out into the street I go……….

We’ve tried everything to date, contacting the school, police, council, local Councillor, we put traffic cones on our drives. This is what happens to the cones – they drive over them:

We’re on to about our sixth set of cones now. The abuse gets more regular, the entitled aggression of the parents more troublesome and at least five neighbours (men and women) are too scared to come home between 15:15 and 15:45 because of the chaos that will be in the street and the abuse they will be given when trying to park on their own private driveways.

So, I decide to try again, via the channels available to us, to make some progress towards getting this nonsense sorted out. I spoke to the school first, not least because the girl next door was trying to park on her own drive and had her tiny baby with her, only to be met by abuse from a man, who, with his 5 year old, tell her to ‘f**k off’ and they’ll park on her drive if they want to. Yep, a grown man and his kid – both at it. I’m told the chap at the end of the block moved out (he wasn’t there long enough for me to get to know who he was), after being punched in the face and the woman across the road and her neighbour had their car tyres slashed. The school absolutely don’t want to know. There’s nothing they can do, so they say. Their advice – call 101.

Weds 12th Sept, 2018 and I receive another text from a neighbour after yet another altercation. Yep, another car won’t get off her private drive. I call 101 and log it. We’re graded ‘standard’ and promised a visit from a PCSO. It never happened. We had a phone call and I was later visited by a police officer. We raise the issue with the local Councillor also, who passed the hot potato back on to the police.

Thursday 13th Sept 2018 and another neighbour tells me that their wellbeing is being seriously impacted by the debacle in the street twice a day, five days a week.

The police advised me to contact ‘parking’ at the council. So, I did. I emailed and contacted them via twitter. I know they can’t do anything about parking on private driveways, so I also mention the inappropriate dangerous driving in a narrow street, the double parking, parking on junctions and parking side by side and blocking the street completely.

Friday 14th Sept 2018 – I get a response from ‘parking’ at the council – it’s nothing to do with them. Contact ‘highways’ and the local Councillor…….so I do.

And now, taxis have started to use this tiny cul-de-sac to do their drop-offs – it’s mayhem.

Weds 26th Sept 2018 and ‘highways’ come back to me. They tell me that stationary parking offences now lie with ‘parking’ and the hot potato does the rounds again. They tell me that school gate problems happen all of the time………but we aren’t at the school gate…we’re at the back of school in a very narrow cul-de-sac where parents park on private drives, block the road completely and have pushed our fence down to beat their way through the woodland and through to the back of the school. Highways proceed to tell me that no parking restrictions work. Well I never! We call it a ‘fix that fails’ in my world! To stop non-resident cars using the street they would have to raise a Traffic Regulation Order but  they won’t do that because it is a, ‘lengthy process in its entirety and also costs several thousand pounds to incorporate the necessary design work, public consultation, advertisement in the press and the obvious physical works.’ I get a lengthy breakdown of costs…because, you know, they are more important than the safety of people in the street, including the school children, who have no paths to walk on (because cars are on them) the street is blocked and there’s mayhem with a number of cars all trying to do ridiculous manoeuvres around each other every day. They also said, ‘If motorists are specifically obstructing access to these spaces they are already contravening existing highway law that the local police teams can and do enforce, as such I can only suggest that you contact the local policing team who will be able to advise motorists of their responsibilities, ticket said vehicles or as a last resort tow away the vehicle to an impound.’ We should call them. We have, they haven’t! The Council closed the call out saying it was logged as a private parking issue. I say they’ve logged it incorrectly and don’t accept that it is closed. Of course, absolutely nothing is done.

 There’s been damage to the driveways by the cars. This is my neighbour’s drive – that hole is just the size that a child’s foot could go down it………

 And this one is sinking

 

Thursday 27th Sept 2018 and its brown bin day. We pull the bins out…………but the school bullies arrive and throw the bins in the woodland so they can park their cars on our private drives….again. I get the registrations and it’s another call logged on 101. We’re told to keep reporting it to the school…..and the hot potato does the rounds again. ‘Are you in a bad area?’ I hear you say. No, we are in one of the most affluent areas of our city.

I emailed the council again to request they consider resident parking only and I email the school again, as advised by the police.

Friday 28th Sept 2018 and the woman who owns the house next door is cutting down the trees. She couldn’t get onto her drive yesterday because the parents were blocking it and refused to move. Another altercation……

The police advise us of the phone number for victim support……FFS……..it isn’t victim support we need (yet another sticking plaster) we need this looking at systemically and some initiatives that reduce the need for cars to take kids to school implemented. We need safety in our street.

They also advise us to ‘come along to the community meeting’……………..now I’m really getting cheesed off.

Parking services come back to me, ‘at this point we would advise you to contact the Police on their 101 number’ ……..hot potato…here, catch!

I respond and tell them about the hot potato game…..anyone else want to join in?

 It’s now 24th June 2019 –  the hot potato game continues. The abuse continues. The impact on residents continues. The Councillor was out in the street this week, at our request, but still refuses to do anything. I ask what is being done on a more systemic level to tackle issues like this across the area? I’m looked at quite literally like I have two heads and told ‘nothing!’ The Council won’t budge and refuse to put in any controls. The residents are hiring a private firm to ‘police’ their area………….but the cars still come and the verbal abuse still occurs. Two incidents were logged with 101 again today. The Coucillor….well, he agreed that the street is ‘bad’ but as far as the council are concerned it’s ‘safe’. Know why? Because no-one has been knocked over or hurt here yet. Computer says ‘safe’…………………

 

Why it’s better to be helpful than to ‘know’

This morning I was reminded by Algar Goredema-Braid of a great little video by Gene Bellinger, which you can find here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKzdd63CdN0

There are some wise words in that video. You see, the cry I often hear from systems practitioners is, ‘but how do I get my organisation on board with systems thinking?’ and as Gene says, if you are asking this question, you have missed the point.

The talents of a skilled systems practitioner span much wider than the methods, models, tools, concepts of systems thinking. Some of the most talented systems thinkers I know have never been formally trained or educated in these areas, yet what they do know about is how to work with people.

One of the key skills of a systems practitioner is to guide people around to a systemic way of thinking without them ever having to learn the language or the concepts or the methods and models, in my opinion. Not everyone is going to be interested enough to do that, and we shouldn’t expect them to be.  Whether they are interested in learning the academics or not, we can still guide them towards a more systemic way of being, if that is in their interests.

Gene rightly points out, who wants to have things pointed out to them in a way that makes them feel stupid and then be told to think differently or sold a different way?

Listening, guiding, creating meaning, sharing, inquiring, sense-making and importantly – understanding relationships, how they work, why they don’t and what the implications of those relationships are is vital. When you move into this mode of using your systems thinking, this is when you become really skilled, I believe. Honour others’ perspectives (don’t criticise) and influence, use your skills to be helpful not ‘right’. The more you attempt to tell someone they are wrong, the further away you are likely to push them. If you really want change, then be helpful. Help others to make sense of their context and see things they might not have seen before but don’t sell to them. You’re a systems practitioner, not judge, jury and sales-person.