Perspectives: parking tickets in Belfast

The Belfast Telegraph is creating a fuss about parking tickets on the Lisburn Road.  Fortunately, I happen to have the actual figures in front of me from a request I made last year…

First, a little perspective.  The Lisburn Road is two miles long.  There is no comparison to a city centre street at a few hundred yards, and the Stranmillis Road is only 1.4 miles with the tickets probably only concentrated on a small section where congestion is worst and shoppers’ parking spaces at a premium.

31,611 PCNs were issued by NSL for the financial year 2014/15 across the old Belfast and Castlereagh council areas, whereas it appears the Tele must have asked about the new boundaries.

The Belfast Telegraph states that 2,195 tickets were issued on the Lisburn Road, which is 42.2 a week, or 7 a day Monday-Saturday – or in other words, 3.5 tickets per mile a day, which isn’t particularly heavy.

However, let’s look at why the tickets were issued, and for that I asked very specific questions last May:

Parked on a clearway during its hours of operation1768
Parked on a footway at any time in a clearway63
Parked in a bus lane during its hours of operation16

The effect of this is that only 348 tickets – just over one a working day – were issued in respect of any other parking offence, more than likely someone overstaying the time limited parking bays by more than ten minutes (actually considerably more than ten minutes, as the Traffic Attendant has to observe a car being present and then see it still there an hour later.)

The irony?  It’s probably the same 1768 people who have been ticketed for parking on the clearway on the Lisburn Road who complain about NSL failing to ticket other motorists blocking their progress home in the morning and evening rush hours.  Just like the Ormeau Road, it just takes one inconsiderate driver to cause a mile of tailbacks.

In conclusion, the Lisburn Road is probably the one of the longest roads under the supervision of NSL after the barely enforced Upper Newtownards Road (a very sore point for those who have to travel through Dundonald in rush hour) and you would expect it to have a higher number of tickets than any other road.  Perhaps the better question would be why aren’t other roads enforced with as much enthusiasm?

, ,

  • chrisjones2

    Yeah ….if we issued just 100 tickets a day 5 days a week that would contribute a£1.5m a year to the department. Multiply that across say 10 target roads (graded by financial take) and its a tasty £15m of tax but why stop there? There is money to be made.

  • Brendan Heading

    Thanks for this timely and factual contribution Andy. I knew there had to be sensationalizing going on.

  • Terry Irwin

    As someone who is frustrated by the numerous inconsiderate drivers who block this urban clearway every single day, I would be in favour of a tow away policy with much heavier fines. It not as if it isn’t well sign posted.

  • aquifer

    The dreary trawl for those selfish ABC1 readers.

  • AndyB

    Reference is made in the Tele to giving people a chance to move on. In reality they do – but it’s a bit impossible to do that if the drivers aren’t there.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Many times I go down the Lisburn Rd there is a Bentley illegally parked. I assume the driver has calculated that the risk of a fine is worth the convenience of parking where the hell he likes. On a bus the other week I heard a trainee barber complain to his friend how his speeding ticket fine took a huge chuck out of his wages.

    There might be something to the Finish model of fines based on income

  • Granni Trixie

    Tell that to the shopkeepers.

  • AndyB

    Tell that to the shoppers who give up and go somewhere else because all the free parking bays are taken by people staying well over an hour.

    And to the drivers stuck in a tailback past Tates Avenue because one car is abandoned in the clearway at Marlborough Park. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how bad it is… same on just about every other main road in Belfast.

    In 2014/15 there were 107 traffic attendants to cover the entire city. IN 2016, the Tele makes a fuss about of 3.5 tickets per mile being issued every day on the Lisburn Road, and finds the usual suspects to play the victims, when the real scandal is how many people get away with it.

  • AndyB

    Or, if drivers didn’t abandon their cars in the clearways, there would be no fine income, and rush hour congestion would be significantly reduced…

  • notimetoshine

    Really intereating point. Levitt and Dubner cover the phenomenon well in their freakonmics series. How monetary punishment doesn’t work when they are based on fixed sums, an excellent example being fines for parents collecting children late from day care. Unless the sum is high enough, they will take the chance to be ten minutes late and pay the fine. So like parking tickets, better to pay the small penalty for the convenience of the infraction.

  • Slater

    Why do redcoats patrol the side streets of the Lisburn Road on a Saturday issuing tickets despite the lack of traffic?
    Is that because there is no clearway income to be made?

  • whatif1984true

    On any day you can drive up the Lisburn Road in Clearway time and see considerably more cars parked illegally than are represented by the fines issued. The statistics severely misrepresent the actual problem.
    In Sicily they have some places which are pedestrian only after 7PM. At 1 second past 7 the LINE of towtrucks move into action. I saw this several nights in a row. I have no idea if it was Council owned trucks or a private company but by 5 minutes past 7 there wasn’t a car in sight in the pedestrian zone.
    Just one car parked turns a 2 lane road into a 1 lane road. The fine does not take into account the real cost of the bad parking.
    Parking fines for blocking clearways could be ramped up year on year by 20% and lets see how many people risk a fine. After X years employ towtrucks.

  • Sharpie

    An interesting example of how to collectively manage a commons, the commons being the public highway. There are free riders who abuse it and always will. Many people don’t see it or appreciate it as a commons – it is a resource for their own immediate purposes. The task has to involve ramping up pressure on those who abuse it by having a sanction that acts as a deterrent. For many it is a realisation that they are breaking a social code, for others who simply don’t give a toss – it’s money, points, or prison and throw away the key!

    It is quite surprising how common this issue is across a whole range of public goods. Opening your car window and throwing rubbish out is one I cannot get my head round.

  • AndyB

    Quite probably residents complaining about difficulty navigating their streets due to parking on double yellows…
    On the Lisburn Road itself, the parking bays are limited to an hour, but that can only be enforced if the attendant sees a vehicle parked and it’s still there an hour later – which, if they patrol once an hour, could be up to two free hours’ parking.

  • Gopher

    The Lisburn Road is not fit for purpose, no other street which accommodates traffic and people actually want to go to exists in Northern Ireland. The solutions are again quite simple turn the Malone and Lisburn road into a one way system. Sacrifice one of the created 4 lanes for on street parking, get rid of the stupid bus lanes accommodating empty buses and move Victoria, Methody and the prep schools to greenfield sites and the problem is solved. I would move Queens also but the pubs have a hard enough time in Belfast as it is.

  • AndyB

    Ballyhackamore, Stranmillis Road, and the lower Ormeau would all disagree with that statement, and that’s just the ones I know well!

  • Gopher

    Ballyhack is nothing compared to the Lisburn Road but I’m sure the powers that be will change that, Stranmillis has nowhere near the volume of Lisburn Rd, Remind me again who exactly stops off on Lower Ormeau for a cup of coffee?

  • chrisjones2

    but then they could find scope to ticket elsewhere …. there is money to be made

  • babyface finlayson

    Her is something I was wondering about,you might be able to clear up.
    I have noticed a few times cars parked in a clearway below a post from which the sign has been removed, presumably by helpful community activists.
    Does this offer a legal loophole where the driver can avoid prosecution if the signage is not there?

  • AndyB

    Surely young Finlayson would be leading the way in stealing all the signs so they couldn’t be ticketed by Sheriff Marsh Mallow? 😉

    I think I discussed that with Wesley Johnston not so long ago. I think the frequency of signs is set out in guidance rather than legislation, so it would be up to a Tribunal to decide whether there were enough other signs on the same side of the road – and it might or might not be worth the fight.

  • babyface finlayson

    Cactus Gulch does get a bit congested and that pesky Sheriff is always on the lookout,but I pinched a blue badge from Goo Goo McGoo so I’m laughing. Yuk! yuk!

  • Patrick

    The fact that there is both a hospital and a fire station along the Lisburn Road should ensure that it is a focal point for parking compliance.
    And it would only take one instance of laziness with respect to the urban clearway to anger even the mildest mannered person.