Extra powers for parking attendants in Cambridge?

This article was published in 2005, in Newsletter 58.

Parking Attendants have no power to deal with this sort of abuse.
Image as described adjacent

Last year a ‘Traffic Management Bill’ went through Parliament that included increased powers for Civilian Parking Attendants (‘Attendants’) in Local Authority Parking Enforcement (LAPE) areas. As originally proposed this would have enabled parking attendants to issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for moving vehicle contraventions of bus lane regulations, but not for cycle lanes. Following lobbying from a number of organisations, including Cambridge Cycling Campaign, an amendment was introduced and passed, to extend coverage of similar ‘contraventions’ of mandatory cycle lanes. Note, as these actions are taken by ‘civilian’ staff issuing ‘penalty charge notices,’ they are dealing with ‘contraventions’ under civil law rather than ‘offences’ under the criminal law.

We covered this issue briefly in Newsletter 46 where we talked about ‘Decriminalisation of parking enforcement’. see www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/46/article12.html.

Cambridge City has been a ‘LAPE’ area since late October 2004, and we had hoped that actions by the new Attendants might make life easier for Cambridge cyclists. Unfortunately, we were over-optimistic.

Firstly, without the extra powers of the Traffic Management Act, PCNs can only be issued for contraventions of waiting restrictions where there are ‘yellow lines’. This means that civilian staff cannot issue PCNs where bus and cycle lanes do not have yellow lines within them. Cambridge bus lanes have now had them added via Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs). The Council has stated that, at present, it does not intend to implement TROs for cycle lanes so, in the short to medium term, Attendants will not be able to issue PCNs for vehicles blocking them.

Secondly, it now appears that it will not be until 2006 at the very earliest, that the extra powers on ‘moving vehicle’ contraventions will be available in Cambridge. We wrote to the Department of Transport (DfT) regarding the timetable and to quote from their reply:

Enforcement of moving traffic contraventions by local authorities is new territory. It is currently being piloted by six London boroughs and Transport for London using powers acquired by London authorities for the enforcement of a range of moving contraventions under section 4 and Schedule 3 to the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003. These London powers do not include the enforcement of cycle lanes.

Before making regulations under the Traffic Management Act 2004 enabling local authorities outside London to enforce the moving contraventions covered by the table of signs at paragraph 9 of Schedule 7 DfT will want to learn from the experience of the London pilots. These started in July and are due to go on until next April. So it is unlikely that regulations under the 2004 Act will be made before 2006.

Even when these powers are granted, the Officers of Cambridgeshire County Council will still need to propose a scheme and get it passed by the relevant committee.

Unless the police can be persuaded to put resources into the enforcement of cycle lane regulations, it could be well into 2007 before we have enforcement of even the existing regulations.

There is one avenue of hope. We also asked the DfT about the possibilities for issuing warning notices about cycle lane contraventions in advance of gaining powers under the Traffic Management Bill. They said:

Bus lane enforcement and the enforcement of moving traffic contraventions essentially depends on use of cameras to detect the contravention. The owner of the offending vehicle is identified through DVLA from the registration number and the penalty charge notice is then issued through the post. If an authority had suitable cameras in place it would be possible for it to issue warning letters to vehicle owners.

Given the currently poor levels of compliance, probably associated with ignorance of the law, issuing warning notices will probably need to be a first option, even when the powers are available (Education before Enforcement). If the Council uses its resources to do this, it would both educate motorists and build up a database of persistent offenders, enabling better targeting of PCNs when the powers become available.

We’ve also discovered that enforcement of ‘Urban Clearways’ is not within the powers of Attendants. There are a number of sections of roads covered by these regulations within the city, which lack yellow lines. In normal times one might expect Urban Clearways on which even stopping is prohibited to have higher levels of enforcement.”

Jim Chisholm