Vehicle Access And Parking
Vehicle access and parking
Knowing the number and size of stalls, arenas and attractions, you will have calculated how much space you need. But the event ground is not the only consideration.
Assuming you have a field or site large enough to accommodate the event itself, you will have to arrange for sufficient space to park visitors’ cars off the road. Calculating the space provided, arranging the logistics of entry and exit plus disabled car parking etc. is a more complex process than most people realise. (See ‘Calculations’ section of Chapter 14, ‘Event Site’; Chapter 15, ‘Traffic management’; Chapter 18 ‘Car parking’.)
Staff car parking space
Usually special arrangements are made for staff car parking. You don’t want to alienate your staff by making them pay any parking fee, or putting them in a field 2 miles from the event, whether they are volunteers or not. Make sure you don’t put staff in a huge car parking field from which they cannot escape when their shift ends because the exit is blocked by a never ending stream of vehicles coming in. Be sensible and be considerate, make special arrangement for staff.
Large vehicle access and parking
People running the stalls and attractions will need special attention as well. They will be arriving well ahead of the public and most staff. They may come in large trucks, or sometimes with trailers. They may also arrive with caravans intending to stay on the event site until they pack up and go after the last attraction closes on the last day.
You will also need to consider arranging for early access so that exhibitors can come in and set up. They will need access to the event ground for their heavy goods vehicles delivering stock, erecting stalls and generally setting up.
Some of the people running the attractions may well arrive in heavy trucks. Outside suppliers delivering and erecting toilets, Portakabins™, tents, speakers, telephones etc. will also need access to the event site for heavy vehicles, they may also need room to manoeuvre on the site before all of the small stalls and displays are set up.
When allowing for the larger vehicles, you must remember that a heavy truck needs a wide swing to get into and through a gate and high clearance to allow access without damage to the vehicle, street signs, bridges, low trees, cables, phone lines etc.
You will also want the ground to be firm, for two good reasons:
- You don’t want heavy trucks getting bogged down on site – if there is any chance of that they may refuse to deliver anyway.
- You don’t want them cutting up the ground, leaving it rough and uneven (and possibly causing injury to small or elderly visitors). If the public see that your event ground has been churned up into a mud bath by multiple passes from heavy vehicles, they will not be attending your event, and the farmer may be demanding compensation for damage to his field.
Many of the larger vehicles will be visiting the event ground outside opening hours. Most drivers will park while they deliver and will then leave, but some drivers will almost certainly need to park up safely for the duration of the event. If you are running a steam fair for example, large numbers of low-loader and articulated trucks that have carried displays to your event could need to park, and could give you a major headache.
Make sure that this aspect is considered and planned in detail. Though you can do a lot of the investigation on the telephone, there is no substitute for visiting the site personally, to confirm that it is suitable. You should have spoken to the landowner in depth, during your planning phase, during which you will have been informed of fields or areas that are prone to flooding, or are soft and will be turned into mud by constant traffic. Go and check to confirm what the landowner says. Ask questions and ‘politely’ insist on answers. Make sure that permission for trucks and caravans to be left in the farmyard or on the hard stand outside the barn has been granted.
Remember that the landowner may also require access at some time during the event. They may need to drive cows along one of the lanes, which will interfere with your car park access, or may need to drive a tractor through your event field to access the adjoining field. Clarify any access requirements before you agree to rent the site. A perfect event site is not so perfect if the landowner insists on driving 75 cows through your display arena twice a day for milking.
Car park access and exits
It is possible that the only sensible arrangement for entrance and exits to your event is via another landowner’s fields, gate or lane etc. If this is the case, it is important that you include any other landowners in the feasibility stages, to ensure permissions will be given. You must of course also agree payment, damage, compensation, access hours etc. with any other landowners.
With any luck, the public will come in large numbers and park obediently in your car parking fields. You will need to arrange for sufficient parking spaces for those cars, but still allow for free access to early departures and late arrivals, emergency services and breakdown trucks etc.
Depending on the size and layout of the event site, car park access points, approach roads and the volume of traffic, I always try to ensure that traffic enters and exits through different gates, utilising different roads. This ‘one-way’ traffic flow through your car parking system will separate early departures from the heavy flow of mainstream arrivals. Making traffic leaving the site use a different road to the vehicles arriving will also prevent congestion on the highways.
If the segregated entry and exit method has a choice of a long route and a short route, wherever possible I arrange it so that all vehicles use the longest route in and of course the shortest and most direct route out. I use the long route in, to remove as many cars from the main highway as quickly as possible. If they are queued on a mile and a half of farm tracks or side roads, that is a mile and a half of traffic jam that is not blocking the main road.
With incoming queues, the hopefully minimal delays on the long approach route will be fresh in the memory of drivers. Drivers are always more impatient when trying to get out of a site and onto the road home. I find that the short exit route gives the public the impression that they have not been delayed as long as they expected and that makes them happy. Any action that will cool frayed nerves when the public is trying to get home is worth introducing.
Remember – when you involve different landowners’ fields, gates, lanes and access points, you must make sure that they have all given permission to use their land before going ahead. The largest, firmest, flattest, smoothest field is no good if the neighbouring landowner will not let you use their access drive to reach it.