Who benefits when the rules aren’t clear?

image002– OPINION –

by Ania Kwak

The City of Ottawa, along with bylaw enforcement, are disregarding the very parking laws they claim to enforce by way of a confusing parking space located at the corner of Lyon and Nepean Streets.

This confusion is costing drivers and putting an estimated $29K annually in the city’s pocket through the parking tickets issued as a result.

As per Ottawa standards, the spots where you’re allowed to park in this area are marked with white square brackets painted on the pavement. These confirm that, within those brackets, it is okay to leave your car parked.

Alongside these spaces are signs depicting the hours you’re allowed to park and for how long. For drivers who are on the road looking for parking at a quick glance, the signs, along with the lines, help immensely when figuring out where you’re allowed to leave your car.

If you were to look at any other parking section on Lyon Street, let alone any other street in the city, the signs that are located within the bracketed area always have arrows that correspond with those brackets. The signs that directly line up with the brackets will only have one arrow pointing to the side on which the parking section starts. Those that are within the space, even those which are a mere metre away from the bracket’s edge, will have two arrows showing you can park within the space on either side of the sign.

However, despite this being a regular approach for designated parking areas, there is a parking sign at Lyon and Nepean that doesn’t follow this widely accepted and expected rule; there is only one arrow pointing to the right side of the sign, leaving a large space to the left in an ambiguous position.

As the space between the bracket and the sign is a full car’s-length long, it automatically implies that, much like every other parking area with similar signage throughout the city, one can park their car within that space. Though it’s within the brackets, this same spot is simultaneously outside of the parkable area as shown on the parking sign.

Considering how the Ministry of Transportation’s own rules state that “pavement markings combine with road signs and traffic lights to give you important information about the direction of traffic and where you may and may not travel” (section 3.4 – Pavement Markings in the Driver’s Handbook), this is a blatant contradiction of one of the very rules they enforce.

When this was brought up during a ticket dispute with a representative at City Hall, the representative stated that “the lines don’t matter” and a ticket issued for that spot is a legitimate one based on the sign’s location.

Lines on roadways are important for guiding traffic and, in many cases, they work alongside signs to ensure drivers don’t need to think twice to know what’s expected of them.

When looking at exceptions for parking in general, though the MTO states to “watch for and obey signs that say you may not stop or limit stopping, standing or parking” (as per section 2.8 – Parking Along Roadways” in the Driver’s Handbook), there is no mention to beware of signs that directly contradict the designated parking zones they’re combined with.

Yet tickets are still being issued in this contradictory parking space. Considering how even a Street View of this area in Google Maps (above) shows a car parked in that very spot, it seems likely that many drivers have been ticketed for this spot that clearly ignores these road rules.

As is the case for many parking tickets, most people will simply pay it, as it ends up being easier and cheaper than the time invested and money lost due to missing work in order to fight it. This works in the city’s favour as, assuming at least one person on average is ticketed every day at this spot, and they each pay the full amount, this works out to $29,200 in tickets issued per year (based on an $80 ticket, multiplied by 365 days).

Parking guidelines exist to guide drivers, but they can only be effective when those who enforce these rules ensure the instructions given are completely clear. By allowing these ambiguous parking spots to exist, the city is confusing drivers and betraying the trust they give to the city.

Those who wish for this to be corrected should consider reporting this disservice, whether you have been ticketed or not, to their councillor. Drivers are already being ticketed and paying for their own mistakes on the road; they shouldn’t be ticketed and charged for someone else’s.