To Clear Cycle and Bus Lanes, Council Might Try Fines

Council officials say they want to pilot using fixed-penalty parking tickets to target cars parked illegally on footpaths, cycle tracks and bus lanes.

At the moment, the company contracted to police illegally parked vehicles, Dublin Street Parking Services (DSPS), generally clamps them where they are, moves them and clamps them, or tows them to the pound, said a report to councillors on Dublin City Council’s transport committee.

“It’s a slow process. There is a limited amount that we can do per day,” said the council’s executive engineer for traffic, Brendan O’Brien, at last Wednesday’s committee meeting.

It also risks leaving lanes and tracks blocked – adding to the problem they’re trying to solve – and drivers can jump back in their vehicles and drive away in the time it takes for a tow truck to arrive, said the report.

“What we’re doing with this particular initiative is really responding to what people have asked us to focus on, which is the blocking of cycle tracks, the blocking of bus lanes, the blocking of clear ways,” said O’Brien.

Nine members of the transport committee voted to move the report to the next monthly council meeting for debate and a final vote there, while four members voted to postpone the idea until the council provided additional information.

A Pilot

The council plans to trial this new fixed-penalty-notice scheme for 12 months starting from the second quarter of this year, according to the report.

DSPS would be responsible for issuing the notices, which would mean a €40 fine.

Between 1 January and 31 August 2020, DSPS clamped 1,117 cars on footpaths and moved 184 cars off of footpaths, said a response from council officials in answer to a query by Green Party Councillor Carolyn Moore.

“I would say that is an absolute drop in the ocean,” Moore said, at the committee meeting.

A scheme for fining drivers would allow the council to penalise more who park illegally, said Dublin City Council Senior Executive Officer Dermot Stevenson.

“We’re looking for vehicles that have blocked clear ways, cycle tracks and bus lanes, some footpath parking, non-commercial vehicles parked in loading bays and finally illegal coach and bus parking,” he said.

“Those offences are ones which cause blockages to the free movement of people and vehicles around the city,” he said.

The success of BusConnects – a plan to rework the city’s bus network to increase bus frequency and punctuality – depends partly on cars not clogging up bus lanes. Cyclists in recent years have also been pushing for clear cycle lanes.

DSPS clamps vehicles parked illegally but that means they still block the lane, Stevenson said.

Fixed penalty notices would be used there, he says. “So at least if the motorist returns to their vehicle, they can remove it immediately but they still have the inconvenience of a fine and hanging over them.”

“We don’t see additional staff being brought in for the pilot scheme,” he said. About 10 percent of current DSPS staff would be given the authority to issue fixed-penalty notices when the pilot scheme commenced, Stevenson said.

Enough of a Deterrent?

A parking fine is currently €40 which can rise to €60 if the fine is not paid within 28 days, said a spokesperson for the Department of Transport by email.

Parking illegally in a disabled bay earns a €150 fine, the spokesperson said.

Feljin Jose of the Dublin Commuters Coalition said that’s not enough.: “Fines haven’t been increased in decades. Most of these offences will result in just a €40 fine and no penalty points.”

“The fine to release a clamp is €80 plus the inconvenience it causes. €40 isn’t much of a deterrent and some people can afford to just keep parking illegally and paying a small fine if they’re caught,” he said.

Only Transport Minister Eamon Ryan can change that, Jose said.

File photo by Donal Corrigan.

The Department of Transport is open to the possibility of increasing parking fines, a spokesperson said.

That would take engagement with An Garda Síochána and councils “so as to ensure fairness and proportionality and to take into account issues of implementation and enforcement”, the spokesperson said.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has used fixed notices as its sole enforcement method for 15 years, a spokesperson for that council said by email.

“The amount of fines issued annually have remained consistent over the years,” the spokesperson said.

Said Stevenson, at Wednesday’s meeting: “In our consultation with Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, they’re issuing in the order of 30,000 offences a year.”

Of those, 70 percent are paid and the rest are struck out on appeal or when the notice goes to court, he said.

The Debate

At the meeting, those in favour of the pilot scheme said it was a chance to clamp down on drivers obstructing footpaths, while those against said where to park, and not to park, needed to be more clearly marked before fines are brought in.

There’s a clear need for intervention and enforcement that “is quick and timely and acts as a proper deterrent for people against doing this”, said Moore, the Green Party councillor.

Footpath parking is endemic in the south inner-city, where Moore lives, she said.

Fianna Fáil Councillor Deirdre Heney, on the other hand, said she would be “objecting to this on a point of principle”.

She filed a motion years back asking for parking spaces to be marked clearly so that drivers aren’t unknowingly parking illegally, she said.

“It was unanimously agreed that we would differentiate parking spaces in clear ways,” she said. But that council hasn’t done that yet, she says.

O’Brien said: “But that doesn’t really matter whether we’re operating on this fixed penalty notice system or we’re operating the clamping, as we do at the moment. That’s kind of a separate issue.”

Independent Councillor Mannix Flynn was opposed to the report, he said.

There are narrow roads in areas like around Portobello and Clontarf, he said. So some drivers park with their wheels on the footpaths at night. “They’ll be subject to these particular fines.”

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Donal Corrigan: Donal Corrigan is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. He covers transport, and the southside. To get in contact with him, you can email him on [email protected]

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