NICOSIA - The Paraplegics’ Organisation of Cyprus (POC) is calling for new laws to allow the towing of vehicles in disabled parking spots and on pavements which it says seriously diminishes the quality of life of all people with mobility issues.
Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, president of the POC Demetris Lambrianides confirmed that the association has submitted a request to House President Yiannakis Omirou asking for lawmakers to prepare legislation that will grant police and municipality workers the power to remove illegally parked vehicles.
“The towing of illegally parked cars has proven to be an extremely effective deterrent in many other countries and we believe it is the only sure way of discouraging this inconsiderate practice on our island.”
According to Lambrianides, the organisation’s aim is not to punish parking offenders but to sensitise them to the needs of the handicapped and those with mobility difficulties.
“The only thing we are seeking is a solution to this very serious problem. We want handicapped spots to only be used by disabled people and for pavements to be clear of obstacles so that pedestrians can walk safely as the law already stipulates.”
Lambrianides noted that illegal parking greatly diminishes the quality of life of paraplegics but also creates serious problems for mobility challenged individuals who account for around 50% of the population.
“This includes handicapped people, the elderly, pregnant women, parents with pushchairs and anyone with a temporary injury who has trouble moving.”
He added that the problem of parking on pavements is so bad in Cyprus that disabled people and mothers with prams are often forced to bypass obstacles by walking on busy roads.
“When a car is illegally parked on a pavement it forces pedestrians into the road. If a person already has mobility issues then they are at an even higher risk of being struck by a vehicle.”
The POC is also calling for a law amendment to allow police to fine and potentially tow away vehicles that are illegally parked in private parking spaces that are used by the public.
“This is another serious issue that affects people with mobility issues that the law is currently unable to address.”
According to Lambrianides, police are powerless when it comes to enforcing parking laws on private property – something PAC would like to see change in the future.
“Illegal parking in disabled spots is a daily occurrence at shop and supermarket car parks and even in our airports. People with mobility issues visit these places just as much as anyone else and should therefore have the same rights they have in public car parks.”
While the POC recognises that police resources and man power are spread thin it says the problem can be easily addressed as it has been in other countries.
“Municipalities in many European cities hire private companies that monitor parking violations and either clamp or tow away illegally parked vehicles.
“This is a very feasible solution to the problem in Cyprus and would also create employment opportunities during the economic crisis,” said Lambrianides who highlighted the importance of enforcing the law once it is passed.
The penalty for illegally parking on a disabled spot or pavement is currently €80.
The CPO previously rallied for the fine to be increased but abandoned the idea after it was informed by Parliament that due to current restrictive legislation the fine can only be increased to €100.
“We do not consider this to be an effective deterrent and are therefore pushing for the more effective measure of towing.”
Commenting on the proposal, Traffic Police Chief Demetris Demetriou said the authorities are in favour of any law amendment that can potentially make roads in Cyprus safer.
“Of course we think this is a very good idea as it will force motorists to think twice about where they park.”
According to the traffic chief, drivers on the island systematically flout parking laws to the extent that catching all the offenders is impossible.
“We welcome any measure that would help deter drivers from parking illegally and make the roads safer for all users.”