Parking tickets. Or here we go again.

Retail NI has issued their standard response to the news that 94,252 tickets were issued for unlawful on-street parking in 2017.

Outrageous.  Over-zealous.  Clear and negative impact.  Neither sensible nor fair.

They’ve said it all before.  Ten tickets “every single day” of 2016 on the Lisburn Road is apparently horrendously over-zealous.  It’s an unfair disparity.

But Glyn doesn’t appear to understand something very very simple.

Why would a road which is two miles long and is subject to Urban Clearway restrictions between 8am and 9.30am and 4.30pm and 6pm not have more tickets than a whole town where parking rarely causes problems?

Two miles long.  Or in other words, only two or three tickets are issued per mile of kerbline each day.

It’s worse than that.  Let’s recycle some figures I obtained a few years ago.

From April 2014 to March 2015, 2195 tickets were issued on the Lisburn Road.

1768 of those were for parking in the Urban Clearway.  A further 63 for footway parking at any time and 16 for parking in a bus lane before 8am.  So 1847, or 84% were for obstructing commuters’ journeys and worsening congestion.

Less than 16% were for overstaying limited parking bays or parking on double yellows.

And there’s the problem.  If you can’t get parked because people leave their cars well over the time permitted, you will go elsewhere.

Let’s take a wee example:

Say you arrive at a parking bay with a one hour time limit at 9.35.

Suppose the traffic attendants only visit once every 70 minutes.  That’s one hour plus 10 minutes grace period.  And say they were there at 9.25 towards the end of the clearway period.  Because there’s no point coming back when they don’t know who has overstayed, they come back at 10.35 and record everyone’s number plate.

If someone’s been there since before 9.25, they issue tickets.  And they move on.

They come back at 11.45.  Your car was parked at 9.45, but that doesn’t matter because they didn’t see it until 10.35.

You return to the car at 11.55.  You’ve been parked for 2 hours and 20 minutes, but if you’d only been 15 minutes earlier, you would have missed getting the ticket.

This is what we are discussing.  TransportNI have a 10 minute grace period for limited parking and pay and display (but urban clearways do not), but shopping areas with limited parking start counting from when the Traffic Attendants first see your car.  If you park at the right time, you could have two hours or longer for free before being in danger of receiving a parking ticket for overstaying a one hour restriction.  If you’re really lucky, you might park at 9.30 and traffic attendants mightn’t visit the road at all until 1pm.  Free parking all morning.

And in that time that you are overstaying, how many potential shoppers give up trying to find a legitimate parking space and go and shop in the Boucher Road instead?

What I want to know from Glyn Roberts, and I have tried asking, is what he would consider was sensible and fair.  His public statements indicate that 10 minutes grace isn’t fair or sensible – but it’s not ten minutes.  If you’re on the Woodstock Road or the Cregagh Road, most days the grace period is ten hours due to lack of enforcement.  Lisburn Road it can be well over an hour.  City Centre streets see a good deal more than three tickets per mile of kerbline each day.

Now, if Glyn wanted to complain about missing Urban Clearway signs, he’d get a lot more sympathy from me.  A friend of mine was ticketed under this lamp post last year even though she had just pulled out from Derryvolgie Avenue and the sign had been stolen by vandals – TransportNI suggested that the urban clearway was enforceable because signs were only required every 400 yards, but I discovered that the missing sign left a 600 yard gap between signs.  Miraculously, signs have appeared to plug that gap (I wonder why?), but my friend still had to pay the PCN.  Now that is certainly unfair and not sensible.

But in the absence of any real evidence to the contrary, the conclusion remains: if you want people to visit your shops, they first of all need to be able to get there, and secondly they need to be able to park.

Therefore, what shopkeepers require is for urban clearways to be respected so that customers can get up and down the road to reach them when they need to at any stage of the working day.

They then need empty convenient spaces to be able to park, and you won’t get that if there is no turnover in parking.

So where does the line get drawn?

10 minutes over the time seems reasonable if not generous.  People underestimate how long they need.  It’s human.

Urban clearways coming into force at 4.30pm is already in the middle of rush hour for many roads.  I can think of roads which could use the Urban Clearway coming into force at 3pm for at least part of their length.

So it’s over to Glyn.  What would meet his definition of fair and sensible?

And would it, as I believe, actually make his members’ premises less accessible due to lack of enforcement?