It is now over fifty years since we had the first parking meters, parking wardens and the more general introduction of yellow lines. Parking wardens were part of the police force and any fines they collected went directly to the Treasury!
In 1997, Local Authority Parking Enforcement (LAPE) was introduced. Authorities could remain with the old system or employ their own ‘Civil Enforcement Officers’ (CEOs), with any income from penalty charge notices, being used to run the system or support other transport related activities in the area. Cambridge City Council adopted LAPE in 2004 and although South Cambridgeshire approved LAPE in 2007, it has not been implemented. Some local parish councils have even resorted to paying police overtime to support yellow line enforcement!
Certain parts of the populist press – and even transport ministers – have called penalty charges “a war on the motorist”. Some commercial delivery firms even seem to accept such charges as business costs, preferable to modifying delivery schedules. But these are clearly illegal activities by a very small minority that inconvenience us all. Whether we’re driving, cycling or walking, we all benefit from safer, less congested streets, not obstructed by those illegally parking, waiting or unloading.
Better enforcement of straightforward regulations is a quick, easy, and cost effective way of reducing congestion and making streets safer for all.
Like traffic, there are gaps. In London, ‘footway parking’ is also covered by such civil enforcement, unless specifically signed. But for the rest of the country (as if there is some difference) the government has kicked the can down the street, saying more evidence is needed before making this illegal. In Cambridge, local police have said that they might consider this an offence of causing an obstruction, but would not normally do so if there is still sufficient room for pedestrians to use the pavement.
Zig-zag lines outside schools are another source of confusion. It’s not normally an offence to park on these, unless there is an accompanying Traffic Regulation Order, but the police could once again consider this to be causing an obstruction.
Congestion and safety could both be improved by the state providing better legislation, and individuals being less selfish.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 6 June 2018.