It proved quite an eye-opener to discover that a whopping 83% of Brits aged between 40 and 60 are inactive or overweight according to a recent major study from Public Health England, and that 48% of over 2,000 blokes and women surveyed by YouGov admitted to doing no cardio exercise at all; zilch, zippo, nada.
Various programmes have been springing up across the UK endeavouring to encourage people of all ages to get off their posteriors and experience the benefits of incorporating some exercise into their lives, from ‘Couch to 5K’ and ‘Let’s Get Moving’, which had been adopted by twenty-nine GP surgeries across the UK, to companies like Hootsuite introducing gyms and fitness classes into the workplace during working hours. Last summer, the ITV even stopped broadcasting at 09:30am one Saturday morning to try to motivate people to get off their sofas and engage in some physical activity.
Joining a local gym, running or Zumba club isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, though, and some like nothing better than going for a short to medium-length walk in the countryside. With cash used in just 45.1% of payments in the UK during 2015, the year in which contactless card payment use tripled, and with 8% of younger adults aged 25-34 carrying no cash at all, it’s clear that modern, convenient payment methods need to be embraced by as many organisations as possible to prevent younger patrons in particular becoming disenfranchised.
For anyone who has mustered the enthusiasm to go for a walk in the countryside, the last thing they want to be faced with, especially if they live in an urban area located a considerable distance away, is an old-fashioned parking meter that may not even accept certain coin denominations.
On March 28th, the new £1 coin will enter circulation, but the current coin won’t be phased out until October, leaving Brits facing six months of potential parking frustration. The British Parking Association admits that machines in rural areas are the least likely to be upgraded to accept the new £1 coins, and their comments purporting it to be cheaper to convert machines to accept contactless technology than to alter their physical coin slots initially seemed questionable. Brighton and Hove council back up this notion, though, by stating that buying and installing pay-by-card machines at a cost of £1.5m would prove £1 million cheaper than purchasing meters that will accept the new £1 along with the entry of vehicle registration numbers.
Recent trips to the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire and Delamere Forest in Cheshire, for example, compounded angst again rural parking meters, the former demanding £4 for stays exceeding two hours, which seems rather steep for well-intentioned people seeking to breathe fresh air, get their hearts pumping and practice mindfulness while observing our world’s natural beauty.
At a time when mental health issues are increasingly being discussed in the media and the benefits of physical exercise extolled, surely it’s time for councils to scrap parking charges in such outdoor locations, or, at the very least, to allow patrons to pay by chip and PIN, contactless technology or by phone. Granted, councils are under budgetary pressures and have to reach some kind of balance, but the irony is highlighted by considering that Manchester’s Trafford Centre offers free parking with no time limit in its positively enormous car park. Turning the tables and charging for parking at shopping and entertainment Meccas like this while introducing free parking for people visiting Britain’s local forests, reservoirs and the like would, I believe, encourage far more to make healthier choices. Simultaneously, it would reduce the number of fee-dodging visitors parking inconsiderately, blocking farm access and making narrow lanes inaccessible in places.