I Witnessed a Contravention
Yesterday while riding my bike I came across the following scene
The “no parking at any time” sign is clear and incontrovertible. Nearly the whole of Williams Road is laid out like this – three traffic lanes – one in each direction, and a centre bidirectional turn only lane – with a bike lane next to the curb. Parking is not allowed in the bike lane. It is also not allowed on the sidewalk. You can look that up in the Traffic by law.
2.3 No person shall stop or stand a vehicle:
(a) upon a sidewalk,
(h) at a place in contravention of a traffic control device prohibiting stopping;
(A ‘traffic control device’ means a sign)
Once upon a time in my career I was involved with parking policy issues – which included the thorny question of parking enforcement. In Central London in the early eighties, parking regulation enforcement declined as the police insisted that any increase in manpower (we still called it that in those days) go to police officers and not traffic wardens. By 1984 chaos ensued. Even the tickets that were issued were not collected as the courts simply did not have the time to hear cases. Britain’s licensing system was such that it was not possible to refuse someone car insurance for unpaid parking fines. Indeed, the legal system itself regarded “fixed penalty notices” simply as an alternative to court action – they were not actually “fines”in law. The Transport Road Research Laboratory had looked at the use of the wheel clamp in places like Denver. There, when you had more than ten unpaid tickets, your car was clamped by the authorities, and not released until the fines were paid. An early version of a handheld computer (a Psion I think) was used to track the tickets. This did not appeal to our Minister – who feared a backlash from the civil liberties lobby – but he suggested clamping for any parking infraction. The trial of the clamp was far more successful than anyone predicted.
All law depends on a level of compliance. Most people obey posted signs most of the time. But every so often they will try a “contravention” – and hope they can get away with it. Unfortunately after a while this tends to expand. The more they “get away” with something, the more they will do it. The clamp was the method we used to get back to a tolerable level of compliance. Because you cannot have a warden – or a police officer – everywhere, all the time.
I tried writing to the people whose names appear on the signs. I sent them links to the flickr images. Glen Foreman – one of the two ReMax agents replied
Stephen , thanks for the photo shot. As a fellow cyclist , I can appreciate your concern and took care to neither block the bike nor the pedestrian access. It ain’t pretty but for 2 short hours , I’m just trying to do my job and be a good citizen.Good biking …Glen Foreman
Well, I cannot say I agree. But what was really discouraging was the response I got from the Richmond By Law people. Instead of sending them just the “Stephen Rees wants you to see a photo” message that flickr provides I wrote the following
I observed and photographed an incident today where a realtor had parked partially on a sidewalk and partially on a bike lane. The location on the south side of Williams, west of No 2 Road is clearly signed “No Parking at any time”.
There are three images posted of this incident on flickr [which is where I inserted links to all three pictures]
It is also possible to determine from those pages the exact time, date (June 21, 2009 at 14:36:25) and location of the images, and the license plate is clearly readable
BC Collector Plate B13-884
The vehicle was being used as a static advert for an open house, and the advertising is also clearly visible.
That seemed to me to provide enough evidence to stand up in any possible dispute. So I was really frustrated to get this reply
Hello Mr. Rees,
Thank you for your e-mail.
Please note that City of Richmond Parking Enforcement staff are unable to issue parking tickets unless the incident is witnessed first-hand.
However, if you forward you concern to the RCMP, they may be able to pursue the matter further.
Should you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
City of Richmond
And I got a very similar response from the RCMP. Apparently you can’t send them email – but you can call them. And if I printed off the whole lot I could go down to the police station and lodge a formal complaint. It is curious that you can, for instance, take a picture and email it to the CBC evening news and it will be on that day’s broadcast. I have done that quite a bit with weather pictures. You can send email to your MP or the Prime Minister. But not the Mounties.
Glen Foreman was not being a “good citizen”. He was trying to sell a house using a method that forced cyclists into a traffic lane – and anyone on the sidewalk – with a sight impairment for example – would have been inconvenienced. He could easily have put up signs showing an open house without having to park a car to put the sign on its roof. Indeed he did! And he did contravene more than one bylaw.
When people break the law and there are no consequences, compliance shrinks. It seems to me that Glen does not acknowledge any wrongdoing or express any remorse. I think he should. Possibly by using social media – like flickr, this blog and twitter – I will create some pressure on him – and his agency – to reconsider this practice. I hope so. After all, the amount of money he makes – since he can afford a collector car Jaguar as well as his work vehicle – a paltry parking ticket will not make much of a dent. Although people do get more enraged by parking tickets than almost any other penalty – and will try to fight them. Indeed I have – and have succeeded – but felt disappointed that the issuing officer did not come to court to fight his side.
And in case you agree with Glen that he was not blocking the bike lane take a look at this. Not that it matters. He was breaking the law. Even if he doesn’t get a ticket, maybe he can get some public discomfort.
Nice Jag. Shame about the driver.