Free Handicapped Parking and that Well Paved Road…


Free Handicapped Parking and that Well Paved Road…

I received this note today:

I am writing to try and learn some best practices on enforcement of handicap parking at meters. FL state statute allows up to 4 hours free at a meter. A recent survey of 300 on-street spaces in our downtown showed over 100 of them had hc placards up and were parked all day. The city does not enforce the time limit. We’d obviously like to see better turn-over of the spaces but the City doesn’t want to tackle this “political football”. I understand that we need a plan that gives other options including analyzing quantity and availability of off-street hc spaces and well as possibly adding more hc only designated on-street spaces. I’ve had a long conversation with the City’s disability rights coordinator, who is willing to work with us on this.Can you let me know what some best practices are out there or put me in touch with another city that made this transition?

I responded:

This is a singularly major issue for me.  I do not think that handicapped folks should get free parking.  That causes the problems you have noted below.  Handicapped people tell me they want access, not charity. They need larger spaces for their vans and wheel chairs and crutches. They need to be a bit closer to the destination because they can’t walk as far. But they don’t need free parking. 

I went through this with the Disabled Vets of Florida a number of years ago. Florida is the poster child for handicapped placard abuse. Doctors issue them like placebos, and since so many “seasoned citizens” live in the Sunshine state and they can manipulate the system to get free parking, abuse is rampant. The Vets understood that the need for handicapped access was so they could get to work and make a living and take care of themselves, not charity. They told me that handicapped cheaters took all the spaces and those that really needed them had no place to park. They recommended doing away with free handicapped parking. 

If you can get to disabled groups and get them to understand that the truly handicapped are being “taken” by the concept of “free” parking and that if they were to pay for parking like everyone else, then they would have the spaces and availability of handicapped spaces they need. Handicapped parking should be marked, and should be appropriate for the people using it (a bit wider, closer, near curb cuts, etc). Giving a handicapped person free parking in a standard space serves no useful purpose for them or the community except charity. Florida would be better off to send every person with a handicapped placard a check each year to cover parking charges.

Just my two cents. – I suggest you have an “off the record” conversation with your local HC groups. This is a classic example of the “law of unintended consequences.”  I wish you luck, however, since the majority of people in your state are senior, and since they, as all of us, always look out for number one, and since “free” parking seems to be a good thing, changing that law could be a friggin disaster.

In virtually every case where the government tries to “help” folks by providing a service for “free,” in the end the result is something like this. I’m sure the politicians who passed this law had the best of intentions, but always remember that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.


PS, As you note points out, the statute you referenced above is virtually unenforceable. Unless there is a sensor in the street to tell an enforcement officer when the car arrived, how can they know when the four hours is up? What they do now, assuming they ‘mark’ the car, is track the four hours from the time they first saw the car in the space, and that might be two hours after the person arrived. So the driver will get six hours instead of four, assuming the enforcement staff comes around exactly 4 hours from the time the car was first marked. To make it truly fair and just, the handicapped parker should have a transponder on their car which indicates to the sensor that they are, in fact, one of those who get the free parking, and then the enforcement folks can drive around, check the sensors with their hand helds, and see just who is parking for how long where. The problem is now that at every meter that is in “violation” the enforcement staff has to check for the placard, and, if it exists, try to figure out if the car has been there more than 4 hours. My guess is that the handicapped sign is simply a free parking placard and when the officers see it they simply move on.

John Van Horn

John Van Horn

2 Responses

  1. Is handicap parking free anywere including hotels or only government parking lots?? if any one have the guidelines ablut this rule can you tell me were to find them?

  2. im totally agree, handicap doesn’t not need charity they need ACCESIBILITY, and they need oportunities to parking, because its aproblem that some people pretend to be handicap, for free parking . Its unfair! they deserve those parking lots

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