People are breaking the law by parking in disabled parking spots when they don’t have a permit and a Terrace man wants something done about it.
Helmut Giesbrecht says he’s seen people parking illegally like this all over the city.
“The problem is that I have had my disability permit for a year now and I have never seen anyone actually check the permits,” said Giesbrecht, a former mayor and Member of the Legislative Assembly.
“With all the tinted glass, the expiry dates are hard to see. There is also no other way to determine if the permit has expired as the Social Planning and Research Council of BC can demand the expired ones be returned but how many would do that if it was issued on a temporary basis?”
The Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC) is a non-partisan, charitable organization that works with communities on accessibility, community development, income security and social planning, which includes the Parking Permit Program for People with Disabilities.
With a medical doctor’s recommendation, anyone with a temporary or permanent mobility limitation is eligible for a parking permit for people with disabilities, says the SPARC website.
That includes people who cannot walk any distance without assistance of another person or mobility aid, those who cannot walk 100 metres without a risk to their health or who have a disability affecting mobility and specifically the ability to walk, the site says.
And people with mobility limitations are entitled to a permit even if they do not own a vehicle, continues the site.
As long as the parking permit holder is either driving or being transported in the vehicle, a valid parking permit may be displayed on the rear view mirror when the vehicle is parked in a designated spot.
Giesbrecht said he’s seen people parking illegally in disabled spots “just about everywhere” in town.
“There’s so little enforcement that nobody knows how bad the situation is,” he said.
Giesbrecht did approach a driver once about parking in a disabled spot.
The driver just looked sheepish, got in his vehicle and drove away, he said.
Another part of the problem is when snow is covering the parking spot and the blue stenciled disabled logo is covered.
Other times the disabled parking sign is not lined up with the parking stall’s lines on the pavement, said Giesbrecht.
“I’ve seen company vehicles parked in disabled stalls and it’s hard to know whether the person couldn’t see [the logo], if the disabled sign on the wall isn’t lined up perfectly with the spot or the [sign] post is missing like it is at Tim Hortons,” he said.
The police can give out tickets worth $109 for using a disability parking permit illegally or not having one.
“There is always ample parking in Terrace,” said Terrace RCMP Constable Angela Rabut. “We do see people using disabled parking unlawfully.”
Police officers may not always give out tickets though. “As in all traffic matters, officers will use their discretion on whether to fine, warn or take no action,” added Rabut.
Giesbrecht says he would love to be able to park anywhere and walk to where he wants to go.
“Any disabled person would gladly give up their permit if they didn’t need them,” said Giesbrecht. “They would gladly walk across the parking lot with a spring in their step if they could just walk like a normal person.”
Skeena Mall property supervisor Amber Zanon said illegal parking in disabled parking spots has come up.
Generally, mall staff will make an announcement saying the vehicle needs to be moved and giving its licence plate number, she said.
If the vehicle remains for more than 30 minutes, a tow truck is called, she added.
The mall has 15 disabled parking stalls: four outside Liquidation World, five outside the Winners entrance, two outside the Cooks Jewellers entrance and four outside Save on Foods, she said.
Walmart manager Danielle Koven said the store doesn’t have too much of a problem with people parking illegally in disabled parking spots.
“We usually monitor it and we address it right away,” she said, adding the store has six or eight disabled parking spots.
City of Terrace director of development services David Block said the city’s Street and Traffic Bylaw places responsibility on the property owners to supervise and enforce use of parking spaces marked for disabled persons on their property.
“The city does not enter onto private property to issue tickets for this issue nor do we inspect or track how these spaces are being used,” said Block in an email.
An individual should raise any concerns with the property owner if it’s felt someone else is using a marked space without the proper placard displayed in the vehicle, said Block, adding the city has not received any complaints in recent years about it.
The city no longer issues disabled parking passes despite the wording of the bylaw, he added.