By Jason Menard
Let me preface this with a little story here, before I get into the meat of my discussion. It’s the story of a young 19-year-old celebrating his high school prom.
Now, of course, this was back in the days when Grade 13 was still in vogue. In fact, I think it was back in the days when En Vogue was still in vogue… But regardless, after a night of revelry and some alcoholic libations, several of us retired to a friend’s back yard, set up tents, and celebrated the conclusion of our high school experience.
Of course, many of us drove from the official prom to this more laid-back after-party. And, seeing as our hostess only had a normal-sized driveway, many of us parked on the street. The next morning, many of us also woke up to little City of London gifts tucked ever-so-maliciously under our windshield wipers — a fine for parking on the street between the hours of 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Now, the $20 charge wasn’t the issue – it was the principal of the matter. Begrudgingly I paid my fine, dramatically stating, “Next time I’ll comply by the law and drive drunk – I hope that’s acceptable for you!”
And that, in a nutshell, is the lunacy of this by-law. It penalizes those who are acting responsibly. Personally, I don’t think any revenue gained by these needless fines are worth the cost of one innocent life lost because an inebriated driver chose to get behind the wheel, instead of leaving the car on the side of the road.
Proponents say that other regions have similar by-laws, but I can also count a number of cities – large ones, the likes of which London often aspires to become – that have more sensible parking enforcement strategies. And if city councilors are reticent about losing the cash grab – uhm, sorry – legitimate revenue from parking offenders, then there is a simple solution to this issue that should satisfy all sides.
There is the argument that the existing by-law makes road maintenance easier, but that convenience can still exist for both the maintenance crew and the citizen or visitor. Alternating parking rights on city streets is the simplest way to satisfy all parties.
Here’s how it can work: on certain days, or between certain hours on certain days, you are restricted from parking on certain sides of the street. Simple. Easy. Clean. Clear.
Say I live on Menard Street (it’s catchy, isn’t it? And I’m more than willing to offer that up for the next round of road name suggestions). Well, from Monday at 8:00 p.m. to Tuesday at 8:00 p.m., I’m restricted from parking on the north side of the street. Then, from Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. to Thursday at 8:00 p.m., I’m restricted from parking on the south side of the street. That way, if they need to do any maintenance on Menard Street, then the workers have a 24-hour window to do so – far more convenient than the 14 hours of interrupted time the current by-law offers.
During the winter, more frequent restrictions can be put into place to enable snow plows to work their magic. Say a Monday to Thursday restriction on the north side of Menard Street and a Friday to Sunday restriction on the south side. That way, there’s always ample parking and also room for the maintenance crews.
This is London, remember. There’s not an abundance of people parking on the street. Most people either have private drives, complex parking, or parking garages, so the impact on the roadways would be minimal. And should we find that the issue grows and more people are parking on the street, preventing area residents from having close parking for their homes, then we can designate certain streets at certain times as residential parking – and the residents would obtain stickers indicating that they are allowed to park in that zone.
We’re not reinventing the wheel here. All we’re doing is taking the best of what other cities have effectively done for years and applied it to our region. There’s no need for a Made-in-London solution when the answer is so clearly available to us elsewhere.
The fact that council refused to make a change to this by-law shows that their progressive thinking gear is stuck in neutral. The way to make all parties happy is clear. And sure, there’d be a little investment in street signs, but that’s a one-time cost that can be considered an investment in fostering our city’s growth and infrastructure.
And that way, should someone know they’re going to drink a few too many, they can park appropriately before they’re under the influence – without being penalized for doing the right thing!
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