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Civil parking enforcement is not a ‘war on motorists’ in Cambridgeshire

Opinion | By Edward Leigh, Smarter Cambridge Transport

As many people know to their cost, Cambridgeshire County Council has powers to fine people for driving or parking in bus lanes or gates.

A parking notice
A parking notice

In Cambridge and Park & Ride sites, it also has powers to fine people for parking where there are yellow lines, or on or near a pedestrian crossing, or in a restricted parking bay without a permit, or unloading where there are yellow marks on the kerb.

Elsewhere in the county, parking offences are a criminal matter, like speeding, enforceable only by the police. In practice, they are simply not a priority for them.

So, South Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Fenland are now also applying for ‘civil enforcement’ powers (East Cambridgeshire is not, partly because it does not charge for parking anywhere).

That is only the start though. From December this year, the county council will be able to apply for new powers to take over enforcement of several more types of road traffic offences that are currently only enforceable (if rarely) by the police. Those include disobeying a no-entry or access-only restriction; making a banned turn; driving or parking in a designated cycle lane (usually demarcated by a solid white line or kerb); entering a yellow-box junction before the exit is clear; or driving a vehicle that exceeds the posted weight limit.

It is worth noting there is no legal distinction between ‘stopping’ and ‘parking’, despite the popular notion that a brief stop to answer the phone or nip into a café to buy a coffee doesn’t count as ‘parking’. Only unloading/loading is legally distinct from parking.

Is civil enforcement a “war on motorists”? Absolutely not. Thoughtless parking and dangerous manoeuvres can cause collisions, contribute to congestion and bus delays, and deter people from walking and cycling. Enforcement is a defence of the rights of everyone to use the public highway fairly and safely.

Is it another “tax on motorists”? No. It’s a penalty for causing hazard and inconvenience to other people. Any surplus money raised from fines, after covering costs of employing civil enforcement officers, administration, operating cameras and so on, must by law be reinvested in local transport.

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