Cardiff’s “smart” car parking is now city wide…and it isn’t so smart…

Whilst cycling is said to be front and centre in the Council’s new transport strategy it appears that much of their energy is still for the benefit of motorists.

The council has been painstakingly installing sensors into their parking spaces across Cardiff and has now connected them to a new smartphone app.

Pokemon Go

Cast your mind back to a few summers past. Teenagers the world over left their bedrooms en mass and started walking. They put down their controllers and actually left the house, voluntarily, stopping at strategic points across the city.

No, they hadn’t been overcome with the sudden desire to exercise, they were actually playing Pokemon Go on their smartphones and were indeed trying to “collect them all”.

The aim of the game is to walk around to places where Pokemon may be lurking. When you find one your phone should alert you to their presence and you have to then, using the power of augmented reality, throw balls at them to capture them.

Unfortunately, the council saw that motorists were feeling left out, so it created a similar app, but instead of Pokemon you have to capture parking spaces.

Populated with data collected through the sensors, drivers in Cardiff can download an app, called ‘Park Cardiff’, to search and view a real-time map of parking availability and be directed to an empty space. The Park Cardiff app is now available for iOS and Android devices on the Apple Store and Google Play store.

Source: Smart parking is now city wide

Oh boy, where to start…

Phones and drivers don’t mix…

As you know I’ve been getting the bus quite a bit lately, for various reasons. Being high up, as you are on a bus is a great vantage point to see just how many drivers there are who didn’t get the memo about not using a phone while driving. It’s also a good chance to see just how many empty seats those drivers are carting around with them. They’re all at it (“all” being the same “all” that ride bikes on pavements and go through red lights, just so we’re clear) so putting out an app that will encourage them to look at their phones while driving, or to stop somewhere inappropriate like a bus stop or cycle lane (if they can find one…) defies belief.

In order to use this app “legally”, you actually need to be parked. If you are parked, why the heck do you need the app?

Of course, we know full well that most will use this app illegally and diddly-squat will be done to stop them. It begs the question exactly who thought this would be a good idea; how much it cost to install all those sensors; and how much it cost to develop the app? (Edit: it was £900,000 –or roughly £3 per head) Finally, how is this going to deter people from driving into the centre of Cardiff?


IMG_1058 (Edited)Consider this. It’s 4pm on Christmas Eve and dads everywhere are about to start their Christmas shopping. It was their job to pick up the “must have” toy of the season –yes, this scenario has been borrowed entirely from Jingle All The Way. All of the parking signs around the city say all car parks are full. There is one council parking space left in Cardiff and a dozen dads launch the app. It directs them all to the same space and they all arrive at the same time. Eleven dads are disappointed and number twelve gets a fat lip from one of the losers. If only they had cycled into town instead. Sadly, they wouldn’t have known where to park if they had.

Fortunately, help is at hand from our friends down the other end of the M4. A particularly fruitful hackathon in London back last June resulted in an excellent app called Smartcycle. Currently available only for iOS it pulls in data (seemingly) from OpenStreetMap and tells you at a glance how many bike parking racks are nearby before directing you to them. So, if you helped us add racks to the map last year, thank you, because this app is now crammed with local parking information.

Since we have won the The DigitalTown #LondonNeeds Hackathon for Smart.London last June, and after some deserved holidays, smartcycle is now finally launching and app that will allow cyclists from all over the world to enjoy some cool features…

Source: smartcycle on the App Store

The app doesn’t just tell you where the spaces are, it allows you to add ones that aren’t on the map. It also maps the bike shops too, directing you to the nearest place for supplies or a workshop.

The council could have worked on something like this instead, but no. Welcome to Motor City, or Motown after the music died.

2 thoughts on “Cardiff’s “smart” car parking is now city wide…and it isn’t so smart…

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  1. I sometimes use a train to get to work and walk from Queen Street station to the Civic Centre. I was curious to what workman were doing – drilling four inch core holes into the road and stuffing plastic pods into them. So I asked a friendly workman. “Parking app”. “For phones”. “Hmm”, I said to myself, “driving and phones don’t mix”, so I contacted the City Council and asked what they thought they were up to. “Parking app”. “For phones”. “We want to maximise parking”. “it’s costing £900,000”. “But driving and phones don’t mix”, I said. “Don’t care”. My faint hope that the Civic Centre would one day become car free has been cruelly dashed.


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