WIDESPREAD lockdown measures came into force in March this year, in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 which, at the time, was running rampant across the globe.
Travel was forbidden, people were urged to work from home where possible, pubs and restaurants closed, and non-essential retail shut their doors. As a result, cities that were once buzzing with activity almost effectively shut down.
The past 12 months saw significantly reduced activity in Cork city as people worked from home, even when lockdown measures were eased, and non-essential retail remained closed for large parts of the year.
In 2019, Cork City Council issued a total of 42,694 parking tickets, an increase of more than 13,000 on the year before. Those fines resulted in an income of around €1.54m last year.
Between January and November this year, Cork City Council issued 22,969 fixed charge parking notices —almost half the total issued last year. This has resulted in significantly reduced income in the area of parking fines this year compared to 2019.
In Cork county, 5,061 fixed penalty notices were issued for alleged parking offences from January 1 to December 2.
Here are the areas of Cork city where you're most likely to get a parking fine https://t.co/FXg7utHoEh— EchoLive.ie (@echolivecork) December 17, 2020
Speaking to The Echo, Cork City Councillor Terry Shannon (FF) explained that the reduced income from parking fees and fines, along with the six-month waiver of commercial rates introduced earlier this year, has hit city council finances hard.
“We were looking at the budget last month and we had a deficit of around €10 million but we were able to claw a lot of that back,” he said.
“But we were still looking at a deficit of about €1.2 million or in and around that.
“There’s no doubt that the parking charges and fines had a huge impact on that, and will have next year going forward,” he added.
“That was down to the lack of business in the city, the fact that people weren’t travelling in and parking up.”
Cllr Shannon said that illegal parking has been a major issue in the city in recent times.
“We’ve had huge problems with people double parking, parking on double yellow lines and, of late, we’ve seen the issue of people parking on cycle lanes raised quite a bit,” he explained.
“I welcome cycle lanes and infrastructure and think they’re incredibly necessary but I do have concerns about cycle lanes outside someone’s house where people don’t have any off-street parking.
“Having said that, in the city centre and down by the train station before bollards were placed there, there was a lot of illegal parking on cycle lanes, and I think a lot of people got fined for that,” he added.
“The fact that there’s been an almost 50 percent reduction in parking fines reflects the lack of activity in the city during the Covid period.
The 2021 infrastructure priority I would like to see in Cork City is developing safe school zones, where we restrict traffic and parking, and provide better protection for pedestrians and cyclists.— Cllr. Dan Boyle (@sendboyle) December 30, 2020
“That reduction was also seen in the level of parking fees paid as well during that period — it was probably to a similar level as that of the fines.
“We had a huge reduction in income from parking fees, which again reflected the impact on activity,” said Cllr Shannon.
He also explained that income from parking fees and charges is usually ring-fenced for road improvement works, including road resurfacing and footpath renewals.
“While people may not be overly happy at having to pay for parking, that money is pumped back into the community,” he said.
Cllr Shannon also called on the owners of private car parks in Cork city to reduce their rates over the coming months, in an attempt to increase activity in the city.
“They are often dearer than the council-run car parks,” he said.
“We have introduced two hours free parking in the North Main Street car park again with the Christmas initiative underway, notwithstanding the pandemic.
“We are doing our bit to help businesses in the city and I think it would be great to see the owners of private car parks help out and do their bit too,” he added.
“With the vaccines becoming available, we’re hoping to see an increase in footfall in the city, hopefully by the second quarter next year, when people can come into the city once again.”
Speaking to The Echo, Green Party Councillor Oliver Moran said a reduction in parking fines was to be expected this year, as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions.
“For me, the significance isn’t the number of parking fines,” he added.
“It’s that some offences are worse than others. They shouldn’t all be counted or treated the same way.
“In 2019 for example, 70 percent of fines were for overstaying on legal parking places or not having a parking disk,” said Cllr Moran.
“Just one percent were for parking in a bus lane and less than that again were for parking in a cycle lane while only three percent were for parking on a footpath. Those are the offences that are the real problem for people.”
Rather than focusing on those who have merely overstayed their welcome in legal parking spaces, Cllr Moran said attention needs to be paid to those parking in illegal spaces and areas.
“The focus for campaigners who want action on this isn’t on anyone who parks where it’s legal and simply overstays their time,” he explained.
“It’s parking in places where it’s not legal that needs a special focus.
“If someone overstays their time in a legal parking spot, I think a fine is about right,” he added.
“But for those who are blocking footpaths and cycle lanes or holding up public transport, they present an immediate problem for people.
“That’s where we need to come down hard.”
Cllr Moran called for towing to be reintroduced in such cases.
“Towing was stopped in the city a few years back,” he explained.
“Given the relatively small number of offenders who cause these particular problems, I think it’s a good idea to look at it again in a focused way.”