Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A parking handicap

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Winnipeg and its parking authority could take a lesson from private enterprise.

On most mall parking lots, the big ones and those small, strip ones, there are spots appropriated for drivers or passengers with physical challenges. They are marked clearly with signs and the asphalt spot is painted, alerting drivers that the area is, in no uncertain terms, reserved for those whose getting around is more difficult and more painful than it is for the average guy.

Most people are incensed when they spot able-bodied individuals casually pulling into those spots and leaving their cars to carry on with their day. Sometimes things are said and sometimes the driver offers a quick apology for his inattentiveness and goes on to find alternate parking.

But not always. I've heard some pretty selfish drivers responding to the verbal concerns of others with a flurry of expletives suggesting that they mind their own business.

I'm one of those that will casually mention to someone that he may have missed the markings. On one occasion -- while I was on crutches due to a damaged knee -- the response was a fully self-absorbed "and what kind of &$%#@ victim are you supposed to be?" No embarrassment. No thought to the extreme inconvenience he may have been bringing to somebody else.

Human nature. I guess we're all wired differently and while the private lots do their best with signage and asphalt marking, the city comes up a little short.

For example, in some downtown-metered areas the signage isn't exceedingly confusing, but it does require more than just a casual look. The metered handicap spots (do those few spots really need to be metered at all?) scattered here and there use three different signs to deliver the restricted-parking message.

It should be easy enough to figure out, I suppose.

Well, except for me.

Don't worry, this isn't evolving into a whine festival. The story's rather simple. I'm going to an appointment, I see a guy running to his truck, zooming off and leaving the open space with a tree bough blocking the three signs (no excuse, just fact). I quickly pull in -- too quickly -- check the sign for time restrictions and see none while being carelessly oblivious to the wheelchair symbol for just one of many spots. I throw in two bucks and go off on my business.

Of course, I'm dumfounded on seeing a ticket on my windshield when I get back. The paper that was spit out of the machine told me I was good for two hours and I was only gone about 45 minutes.

I look at the ticket. Handicapped?

I check the signs. Uh-oh.

What I am asking (besides how could I be so stupid?) is this: Should those spots be marked better? The object of the exercise is to do all that's possible to ensure dedicated spots remain available to those that need them and so that people like me, experiencing what I hope was temporary brain gas, don't hog them.

I'm acutely aware that someone may have needed the spot I'd taken and a little bit of paint on the asphalt, applied annually along with other road markings, would go a long way to reducing my kind of blunder.

Still, being at fault for something that I have been so critical of hasn't changed my opinion. The fully able individuals that intentionally park in those spots are self-indulgent and in dire need of a reality check.

And with those thoughts I drove directly to The Parking Store at 495 Portage Ave. and laid down my credit card. My reality check is that next month's credit card bill will be $150 heavier. If I waited a week or two, it would double to $300. The city means business with this fine, which is substantially more than what usually gets doled out for breaking into houses.

So beware. Thor Goodmanson and his gang over at G4S Security -- they're the guys with the city's parking-ticket contract -- are doing one helluva job.

I got my ticket within 10 minutes of parking. I plan to be less dopey in the future.

 

Robert Marshall is a retired

Winnipeg police detective.

rm112800@hotmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2011 J6

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