And the winner is:
Over the years, I have occasionally commented on the seemingly ridiculous prices people will pay to store their cars. Single parking slots bought in central London for more than the price of a house — you know the sort of thing.
Now, one of our overseas visitors from the Middle East has gone one better and paid just over $25 million for an entire underground carpark!
It’s located in the Knightsbridge area of London, which has long suffered from an annual invasion of super-rich visitors from the Middle East who seem to see compliance with our traffic laws as optional. After all, who is going to be deterred by a $150 parking fine if Daddy owns a lump of the world’s oil reserves?
But, I digress. The carpark was formerly operated as a high-end, high-security store for rich man’s playthings, where people paid $50,000 a year to keep their Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens.
Now our anonymous buyer has bought the whole site. How rich is he?
We don’t know, but a spokesman for the property company that runs the site did comment that the value of the collection of cars that the new owner would store there was significantly higher than the price that he had paid for the garage. So, not Volkswagens then.
Schools and Parking
I don’t know about the U.S., but here in the UK, and in many other European cities, there seems to be an intractable parking problem. Twice a day, lobotomized parents whose children are clearly incapable of walking more than 10 feet — and, yes, we do have a major child obesity issue — have to park within inches of the school’s front door to drop off or pick up their lard tubs. In one European city, I saw a main bus route blocked for 20 minutes while this happened.
If the police are there, the parents go away and park down the street. But the police can’t be there all the time, and the minute they leave, the kinder-transports return like some vast automotive mushroom that feeds on kids.
Property access, fire paths — forget it. Nothing, I repeat, nothing is more important than the school run. I live near a school and have found a car parked on my driveway while mummy went to get her little darling.
So bad and so persistent is this problem that parking on a school entrance is one of the few parking violations that can still be enforced using CCTV. But it doesn’t work. I spoke to one council that had ticketed the same mom four days in a row for dangerous and obstructive parking, and she just kept coming! A taxi would have been cheaper.
Now, one London borough has just raised the stakes, big time. Our parking laws allow the borough to issue a ticket that costs, say, $100, but which is discounted to $50 if paid within 14 days, and no matter how many times you are ticketed, the fine doesn’t go up. The London Borough of Havering, realizing that this process was ineffective, has looked at the law books to come up with what might be considered a cunning plan.
Instead of enforcing the parking rules, the borough has created a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) excluding anyone from dropping off or picking up kids from the area surrounding a school. A new law was created in 2014 to allow councils to create, in effect, exclusion areas where defined activities are banned. The intention was to ban things such as begging, public drunkenness in a park or other anti-social behaviour causing a nuisance.
Now the problem is more than just a nuisance, making the streets untidy. There have been many so-called near-misses, and at least one kid sent to hospital after being run down. Enough is enough, and Havering, having decided that blocking roads ’round schools was just as anti-social, made a PSPO.
The big difference is that, with a parking fine, the value remains low; with a PSPO, the fine starts at $120, no discount, and operates on a three-strikes-and-you’re-out basis. Collect multiple $120 tickets, and next time you go to court and get a criminal record and a fine up to $1,200.
Has it worked? Yes and no. Yes, as it seems that, within the order area, parking problems have been largely solved, with residents breathing a huge sigh of relief as, for the first time in decades, they can get in and out of their properties and get down streets that were previously gridlocked twice a day. No, because, who would have thought it, the mums (and it is mostly mums) simply gridlock the streets in the zone surrounding the exclusion area.
PSPOs have also sparked a debate about civil liberties, because they are being used to criminalize behaviour which in other places might not even be illegal. For parking, there is clearly a debate to be had about how reasonable it is, when there is a specific law about parking, to use this generic PSPO power to increase the fine and potentially criminalize a civil penalty, no matter how severe the problem.
Of course, it would be churlish to even suggest that the potential to raise more money would have any impact on the borough’s decision-making process.
Whatever the motivation, I can see one clear problem. Enforcement is by camera, and the system uses the license plate to process the fine, which is presumably sent to the car owner. The problem is that the offense was committed by the driver, not the owner, and I can’t see anything in the law that, unlike a parking ticket, makes the owner liable if they don’t name the driver.
If you are in a hole, stop digging!
Another Black Eye
In a small victory that once again makes our industry look mean and vindictive, 71-year-old Robert Humphreys has given Camden Borough Council a bloody nose and has had his $160 parking fine set aside by the courts.
Mr. H found a parking slot for his moped and left it for three weeks while he went on holiday. While he was away, the borough ticketed him because they “suspended” the bay. Mr. H appealed the ticket to the independent adjudicator, who asked the borough to cancel the ticket.
This is where the borough should have stopped, but, no, they ignored the adjudicator, as is their right, and raised the ticket to $240 for late payment. Mr. H didn’t like this and went to court where, rather inevitably after the adjudication decision, he won and the borough had to pay him nearly $4,000 in costs, plus their own legal bill. Stupid, stupid, stupid.