ROAD safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist is urging councils across the UK to ensure they continue to allow cash payments for parking.
The call follows GEM members saying they were concerned that they will be forced to download smartphone parking apps as traditional pay-and-display options disappear.
Particular areas of concern included the multitude of apps required for different car parks, poor signals causing download delays and so-called ‘convenience fee' surcharges levied by car park providers on drivers using pay-by-phone options.
Half of all London councils have already removed some or all of their pay-and-display machines. The gradual switching-off of the 3G network is believed to be in part to blame, with local authorities reluctant to spend large amounts on installing more up-to-date card payment options.
GEM chief executive Neil Worth said: "Not everyone has a smartphone, so it is simply not right that parking in our town centres and high streets should be available only to those who do have one.
"It seems a clear case of discrimination against those who cannot - or would rather not - switch to app-based payments.
"Our town centre retailers need all the support they can get in these difficult economic times. We understand the need for councils to save money, but they must be careful not to alienate anyone for whom smartphone payments are not possible.
"We urge local authorities to ensure there will always be the option to pay by cash. This helps both shoppers and retailers."
GEM's tips for streetwise parking are:
1. Once installed, a parking app can offer a quick and straightforward way of paying. It seldom takes more than a few simple clicks to pay for a session.
2. If you're driving to an unfamiliar location, consider booking and paying for your car park space in advance. This will remove the stress of needing to locate, download and activate yet another app once you've arrived and parked.
3. If you're planning to pay cash for parking, check you have the right change. Car park machines rarely give change, meaning millions of unnecessary additional revenue is simply handed on a plate every year to local authorities and car park operators.
4. Some apps can be set to warn you when your parking is about to expire, but they usually charge for this. If you don't need the service, ensure you de-select it.
5. Watch out for surcharges imposed on cash payments for parking, as councils have a duty to ensure they do not discriminate against older people or those with vulnerabilities.
6. Download ‘AppyParking' which will help you find a free on-street parking space anywhere in the UK.