Traders complain about disabled parking bays
A move to create more spaces for disabled drivers in Hamilton will worsen existing parking problems, retailers have warned.
Many shop owners and managers around the city added that the Corporation of Hamilton plan to create more disabled parking spaces would be useless if drivers who abused the spaces were not penalised.
Todd Martin, the general manager at electronics store P-Tech on Reid Street, said that the seating area installed near the store had eaten up space once used for parking.
He added: “Now they’ve got a temporary handicap parking spot so that’s another parking spot that’s gone.
“It’s frustrating not only for customers but also for deliveries — it’s very hard to get delivery trucks down here.”
“So it’s very inconvenient and I just feel that the corporation is not considerate when it comes to that type of thing.”
Mr Martin was speaking after the Corporation of Hamilton announced a plan to increase the number of disabled parking bays in Hamilton from 45 to 73.
The move came after more than 1,000 people applied for disabled parking permits.
Dwayne Caines, the chief operating officer for the city, said: “There has been some pushback from retailers and, while we don’t take this lightly, it is important to understand that the disabled shopper can contribute greatly to the retail bottom line if they have access to parking.
“It’s no secret that the disabled bays are already grossly abused by able-bodied motorists due to a lack of compassion, enforcement and any penalty. We’re hoping to rectify that in the new year.”
But Mr Martin said that, while disabled parking was needed, a lack of parking spaces could make able-bodied motorists more likely to abuse disabled parking bays.
He explained: “I do believe that we need disabled parking bays, but they get abused and there’s no penalty for that.
“I see the police would put a ticket on a car that’s parked outside the library, but not a car that’s parked in a handicapped space. They’d just drive right by it.”
Mr Martin added that fewer spaces could also lead to other traffic offences such as double parking.
He said: “They say that there’s Bull’s Head, but on a busy day like today, nobody’s going to want to come into town to park at Bull’s Head to get a Bluetooth speaker.”
Andre DeSilva, manager of Gosling’s liquor store on the corner of Front Street, agreed that more disabled parking bays were needed.
But he added that the lack of ordinary parking near the store made it difficult for customers to transport large amounts of alcohol.
He said: “The store is OK for one or two bottles, but not for my customers that are looking to buy cases.”
Mr DeSilva explained that customers often had to move their cars to the front of the store, which is reserved for taxicabs, so staff could carry heavy items to the vehicle.
He added: “Sometimes, if we’re able, we can take a trolley and deliver it across the street, but a lot of times we wind up having to take it halfway across town.
“We do have another store in the back of town that’s really convenient, so a lot of times we have customers drive up and we say ‘why not just go to our other store? There’s plenty of parking in the back of Hamilton’.”
Campaigners welcomed the decision to reserve more parking for disabled people.
Ryan Gibbons, who lost a leg after he suffered severe injuries in a 2008 motorcycle crash, said that the move would make the city more accessible for people with mobility problems.
Mr Gibbons, the co-founder of disabled rights charity A New Life, warned that police would have to clamp down on people who parked in reserved spaces.
He said: “They could have 100 bays, but if able-bodied people keep parking in them with no recourse then it won’t matter.
“They can’t get towed and they don’t get ticketed, so right now people don’t really care about parking in the handicap bays because there’s not enforcement.”
Mr Gibbons said that people misused disabled parking “all the time” and that he had shared a photograph on social media of a car without a disabled sticker parked in a disabled bay earlier this month.
He added that many who should know better abused disabled spaces.
Mr Gibbons said: “LaVerne Furbert, who is a vocal community leader, has been found to habitually park in handicapped bays in front of the Union Building. In her own words, she has admitted to it.”
“I have taken photos of police officers outside of Hamilton Pharmacy in all of their uniform and regalia parking in handicapped bays.
“So if we have these instances where people who make policy and who are supposed to enforce the law end up doing it, then it really sucks because there’s no prerogative to stop it.”
The Corporation of Hamilton has still to announce what form its clampdown on disabled parking abuse will take.
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