Able-bodied need to think of others

Selective enforcement of parking regulations is galling for those in need

In Terrace, policing of illegal parking in handicapped zones is largely ignored except by those using crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, or oxygen tanks.

Police are occupied pouring out liquor and retrieving runaway teens; the city’s part-time bylaw officer has no access to car licence files; and businesses track only shoplifters, overlooking legitimate shoppers they may be losing to distance walking. B.C.s aging population is growing, many of them financially well off. But to shop, they must be accommodated in the parking lot.

While RCMP can ticket a vehicle improperly parked anywhere, vehicles on municipal land or city streets are usually policed by the city’s bylaw officer. Private parking lot owners, such as Safeway and Walmart, are responsible for their own parking enforcement.

The RCMP’s primary responsibility is public safety. If the safety of the public is not jeopardized by the parking infraction, police may choose to ignore it.

This enforcement picking and choosing is galling to taxpayers legitimately in need of handicapped parking. Suppose police chose not to enforce drunk driving laws within city boundaries. Would city council be as okay with that?

Whenever a vehicle improperly parked in a handicapped parking area is reported to RCMP, an officer may deal with the driver at his discretion: the police officer may or may not: speak with the driver, speak with the registered owner, warn verbally, issue a written warning, tow or not tow, speak with the store manager, speak with the parking lot manager, or a combination of these options.

A police officer will make this decision based on a variety of factors such as – but not limited to – history of the driver/registered owner, wishes of the complainant, area where the offence occurred, volume of calls police are dealing with, etc. RCMP do not keep a record of valid handicapped parking permits. Nor do they have a way to track the number of tickets, fines, or tows meted out over previous years. Has there ever been any?

The Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC) operates a province-wide Parking Permit Program for People with Disabilities and works in collaboration with bylaw enforcement officers, RCMP and private owners of parking lots on enforcement activities.

For example, SPARC BC has a partnership with Safeway grocery stores across BC. Staff are trained to check for improper use of disability parking spaces when they collect grocery carts. If they find someone abusing the space, they leave a gentle enforcement card on the windshield to let them know “they may be parked in this space illegally.”

SPARC BC offers these “gentle enforcement cards” for free to permit holders and businesses across B.C. These cards help people do public education with offenders while avoiding personal confrontation with the offending driver. SPARC BC encourages permit holders to call in reports of improper parking to their accessibility and enforcement line.

The numbers are 604-718-7734 or toll free 1-888-718-7794. SPARC BC uses this information to identify “hot zones” – areas where SPARC BC will do targeted education and outreach.

It takes chutzpah for an able-bodied driver to park in a handicapped zone; to claim to have a permit good for a lifetime when no such permit was ever issued; to tape over the edge of a permit obscuring its expiry date; to squeeze between two vehicles legitimately parked opposite the Medical Building’s front door. Their lack of caring for those with special needs; their lack of respect for the law – and for themselves – is confounding. They should embrace their mobility while they have it.