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We need a strategy for positioning EV charging stations in urban streets

A new report, commissioned by climate action campaigners Possible with support from cycling charity Wheels for Wellbeing has examined the strategy – or lack of it – for the placement of electric vehicle chargers in London and concludes that things need to be done better.

The report is titled ‘Streetspace Invaders – Mitigating the growing risk that EV charging poses to scarce pedestrian space’ and highlights the fact that charging stations sited on pavements not only represent a physical obstacle for disabled people using the pavement but are, more often than not, inaccessible to disabled EV drivers. 

Example of a kerb build-out EV charging point installed in a parking bay in Camden. Photo: Possible

The report has been complied by Leo Murray, Possible’s director of innovation and engagement who has been working on sustainable transport since 2005.

It begins with the observation that ‘pavement installations can have a profound impact on the already generally poor quality of the walking and wheeling environment for people with additional mobility challenges, particularly wheelchair users and those with visual impairments (like poor-quality walking and wheeling environments including narrow pavements, cracked paving slabs, tree roots, street clutter, missing dropped kerbs and lack of tactile paving)’

The study is concentrated on London because the capital is so far ahead of the rest of the country in terms of  charge point deployment but it covers all the boroughs in some depth and draws comparison between different strategies using information obtained through FOI requests. 

A significant observation that arrives early in the report is that the quality of the data provided by boroughs was relatively poor and sometimes patently wrong, ‘In every instance where data provided by boroughs was wrong, it had underestimated the number or the share of EVCPs installed on footways’ 

The report starts from the premise that kerb build-outs are the preferred solution and best practice guidelines support this: moving the charging point into a parking bay rather than into the pavement space.

However, it found that across London, at least 2,453 EV charge points have been installed on footways – nearly four times as many as have been installed on kerb buildouts (620).

Hammersmith & Fulham, is the only London borough to have a policy of always siting EVCPs on footways rather than on kerb buildouts and of those, three quarters do not leave a 2m space for pedestrians while nearly 40% fail to leave a 1.5m space to allow a wheelchair user and pedestrian to pass.

The report gives credit where it due, however and highlights Hackney for a procurement order which, for the next wave of installations, specifies placement on kerb buildouts. Similar credit goes to Wandsworth who will not install any more chargers on the pavement, while Lambeth and Camden are also commended for their strategies moving ahead.

In conclusion, the report makes some telling points, well summarised by the comment: ‘equipment to service motorists can be installed on footways without consent or consultation, but installing it in parking spaces requires a costly statutory consultation process to be undertaken. What this tells us is that although placing pedestrians at the top of the road hierarchy is a laudable aspiration, it remains little more than that.

 

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