The Green Party wants to reintroduce towing operations in Cork city in a bid to tackle widespread and persistent illegal parking in bike and bus lanes.
The party’s leader on Cork City Council, Cllr Dan Boyle, described it as a “justified form of enforcement” in circumstances where public infrastructure is being obstructed and he said he plans to table a motion next week calling for the regime to be introduced in Cork again.
The city effectively abandoned its policy of towing and clamping in 2012 when it decided against renewing a contract with a private operator amid concerns about the costs and mounting public opposition to it.
But because the Council has reduced from two to one the number of full council meetings held in public since the city boundary extension, the Green Party motion won’t be debated by councillors in public until July.
Mr Boyle’s move follows a surge in complaints about indiscriminate parking in bus lanes and bike lanes in particular in recent months. The bike lane on Alfred Street, linking Kent railway station to the city centre, is one of the worst affected areas. The problem peaks on Sundays when traffic wardens are not rostered to work.
People posted images on social media at the weekend showing cars parked in and blocking bus lanes on Washington Street and blocking bike lanes on Pope’s Quay.
Earlier this year, the City Council installed barriers on the Coal Quay plaza to prevent illegal parking on the paved surface but images posted over the weekend showed cars parked indiscriminately on footpaths nearby - just a few yards from the Bridewell garda station.
Mr Boyle said he raised the issue of enforcement with gardaí at a recent community forum meeting and was told they plan to target certain areas soon. But he said towing should also form part of the city’s response: “I know people may disagree with a return to towing in the city. But I have the impression that if it is done properly and correctly, it could end this problem."
“We need to revisit this but not along the lines of what existed before. There was a lot of public discontent about the previous towing and clamping regime.
Clamping doesn’t deal with the problem - it leaves an offender in place. Tow-away is what’s needed, not for those parked in parking spaces, but it is a justified form of enforcement in circumstances where a form of movement is being restricted.
"We have tow-away vehicles in place for the introduction of the bus lanes on St Patrick’s Street but the same intent isn’t being applied to cycle lanes. The attitude seems to be that they’re only bike lanes. That has to change.”
Since 2012, parking violations in the city have been dealt with since by way of parking fines. In rare circumstances, vehicles causing obstruction are “relocated” with motorists facing a €40 fee for the return of their vehicle.
The cost to the city of implementing the previous towing and clamping regime outweighed the income generated through the €80 clamp release fee or the €160 vehicle pound release fees.
Business groups also criticised the regime's impact on the city’s image.