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Notes from Big Ben …

Just Where Is Tirana, Anyway?

Peter Guest

There’s an old Yorkshire saying – “Thay’s all mad ‘cept thee and me, and I’m nowt too sure ‘bout thee” – that the following two true stories would seem to support.
My town has free, limited-stay parking. Drivers can park their car for up to an hour, but when they leave, they cannot come back for at least one hour. This allows the parking outside the shops to turn over without the politically unacceptable dreaded parking meter (no, I don’t understand this either). Anyway, the sign says: “Parking, maximum stay 1 hour, no return for one hour.”
She who must be obeyed tells me that one of her friends recently parked here, intending to stay 10 minutes. Having read the sign, her friend decided that she was not allowed to leave for 60 minutes, so went to have a coffee to use up the hour and duly got a ticket for overstaying. This is a true story, I didn’t make it up.
A gentleman in North London got upset with the local municipality over a residents parking program. When the plan was introduced in his neighborhood, the local municipality refused him a permit because his house had a garage. The man in question was a builder; he didn’t get mad, he got even. He excavated under his house and neighbors began to notice that each day car after car after car disappeared into his supposedly one-car garage. Eventually, the local council investigated and found that our entrepreneur had excavated a three-story, 30-space car park under his house. Apparently he hadn’t broken any laws, and the municipality is now trying to work out what it can do to stop this catching on.
Do as I say, not as I do
Parking for the disabled is a constant problem here. On the one hand, groups for the disabled complain that able-bodied drivers abuse the spaces that the disabled need or the other providers claim they have to spend vast sums to make a provision that never gets used.
One Tory MP decided that the rules didn’t apply to him. Anthony Steen was caught parking in a disabled bay at a Devon Railway Station. He was fined for the offense, but refused to apologize, claiming that the number of bays for the disabled is disproportionate to the number of people with disabilities living in the area. So that’s all right then.
Guest leads, Bush follows
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and so I guess I should be flattered that, as President of the British Parking Association, my recent visit to Albania was followed by your president doing the same thing. Most of the time over the last few months I have been writing this column from Abu Dhabi; just for a change, I have been in Albania, where surprise, surprise, they have a parking problem.
About 18 months ago, I led a team that put together a proposal for a city agency to sort out the parking problems that were coming with the rapid increase in car ownership. Well, politics got in the way and nothing happened for a while. Now a local businessman has decided to try to move things forward, and I have been asked to pick up the project and move it forward.
The first problem is how do you get to the capital city of Tirana from here? There is a direct flight, but this seems to leave only in the middle of the night, so I made the mistake of using Alitalia, the much-troubled Italian carrier. In-flight food: well, I didn’t know that you could slice cheese that thinly and what was that stuff on the bread? The last time I saw something like that was when I cleaned out a drain.. Fortunately, I was spared the return flight experience because the aircrew went on strike; I can only presume that they had the same sandwiches as I. Thank you Austrian Airlines for providing a quality alternative.
To get back to parking, Tirana, Albania, will be implementing a phone-based parking system on the basis that (a) they have nothing at present and so they can start with a clean slate, and (b) if you can afford a car, you have a phone. We are planning to control about 3,000 spaces in the city center and have a very interesting problem off the main streets where the side streets are just dirt tracks, which makes it kind of difficult to mark out parking places. I will keep you posted on this one.
Looking back
I am getting pretty close to the end of my presidential year at the BPA, and it’s good to look back over some of the highlights. For me, one of the biggest achievements was the launch of the Institute of Parking Professionals – check out www.theipp.co.uk. Overseas members are welcome. This is a professional body for the people in our industry, and I think that over the coming years, it will become as important as the other professional associations.
The IPP started life as the Parking Society, which is very English and one could visualize the meetings where cucumber sandwiches would be handed round as a string ensemble played in the background. The founding members decided that the IPP sounded better, and so I was able to formally launch this, and become member No. 1, at April’s Parkex show. It was a great success, by the way. We ran for only three days, but everyone seemed to have a good time, so watch out IPI, the British are coming.
The next big thing here will be when the government – finally – lets municipalities loose on a whole range of new traffic offenses using the same principles as we now use for parking. The law was enacted back in 2004, but the government has been dragging its feet in enabling the local councils to use the powers that will allow them to deal with things such as driving in a bus lane and making a banned turn. The powers, which have been trialed in London, mean that the councils can issue a penalty ticket just the same as for parking. Hopefully, the government will get its act together and these powers will come online this autumn. Watch this space.

Peter Guest is PT’s Correspondent for Europe and the Middle East.
He can be reached at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk

Article Abstract from August, 2007




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