Contrary to popular belief and perception parking large numbers of cars is difficult and there is considerable skill in doing it safely, quickly and correctly. Efficiently parking vehicles so that the roads are not obstructed, that the cars have the space to leave when they want to and without wasting space in the field is harder than it looks. (For advice on estimating the space needed to park a given number of cars, see the ‘Calculations’ section in Chapter 14, ‘Event site’.)
If you are expecting large numbers of cars and if you have no experience of managing and directing them, seek advice from the local authority or the police. If you are planning a large event and are really stuck, it is best to approach a large stadium or car park operator and be prepared to pay for some advice from their traffic manager. Make sure that you are sure of the fee payable before entering an agreement, they may simply demand a flat fee, or demand a percentage of total gate money. There are also a few experienced freelance people around, so you should be able to get advice and assistance from somewhere.
Car parking is important, not only in relation to access, but also to sign posting, marshals, arrival, departure, adequate vehicle security and simply taking care of the ‘pride and joy’ of so many motorists.
Don’t expect the owners of shiny new saloons to drive through axle-deep mud or over rough broken concrete. Don’t expect them to be happy about parking so close together that they cannot open the door to get out without damaging the car next to them, or more importantly the risk of the car next door damaging theirs. Remember to be considerate with you arrangements.
Car park site
The site is normally selected for convenience, but make sure that it is suitable and big enough.
As mentioned in Chapter 14 ‘Event site’, traffic at some events has a definite pattern. Though 9000 people are expected to arrive by car for an event, that does not mean that you will need parking for 9000 vehicles. It is possible that at a dog show for example, competitors will arrive in waves to attend heats for different breeds of dog. Losers will depart as the next wave arrives for the next heat and then more losers will depart. In this way it is possible that of our 9000 vehicles a maximum of 2000 will need to be parked at any one time.
I always like to arrange to visit the site and drive over the car park field(s) and access routes. In that way I can check that the access is wide enough, what ground conditions are (dry/wet) and physical state (smooth/rough). I can also get an idea of the lie of the ground and the size of the field and where the exits and entrances are, With that information in mind I can begin to plan how the cars will be parked.
It is important that while planning car parking facilities, you remember the event format and who will be arriving. For example if it is a canoe race, many vehicles will arrive towing trailers, or with large roof racks. Ensure that sufficient space and headroom is allowed and remember that the lanes between cars and turning circles at gates will need to be larger to accommodate larger vehicles with long trailers.
You should also check the roads, approaches and junctions, etc. This will give you an idea of where you need to erect signs. (On blind or restricted bends you or the police may have to erect warning signs.)
If possible mark out the car park lanes. The best method is to use a sports groundsman’s marking wheel – the sort they use to mark out the white lines of football pitches. The marking is simple and cheap, and will wash away within a couple of weeks, so there will be no ugly marks on the grass. This device can also be used to peg out and mark up the event site, so it is worth the effort: needed to find and borrow one.