By Annette Chrysostomou
Concrete and metal traffic bollards are sprouting up along pavements in Nicosia’s old city as the municipality attempts to prevent illegal parking, but critics say the city should focus on improving parking fine procedures rather than burden residents with the costs of installing the poles.
The recent upgrade to the area around Paphos Gate in particular has included many concrete slabs and bollards.
There are good reasons, according to Nicosia municipality spokesman Makis Nicolaides.
“One is to give space and safety to pedestrians,” he said. “Cars are encroaching on pedestrians everywhere.”
Traffic bollards are also used to prevent the pavements from being destroyed by the parked cars and are therefore well worth the money it costs to install them, he added.
“It is expensive to repair the destroyed pavement. We have to do more than just fine people after they have parked. We have to prevent them from illegally parking on the pavements in the first place.”
The Nicosia municipality does not have to bear all the costs. Residents and even shopowners who don’t want cars parked on pavements in front of their premises have to apply to the technical services of the municipality. If permission is granted the residents have to pay for the posts to be installed.
Some areas of Nicosia, such as the main roads, also come under the jurisdiction of the government, and it decides where they should go and pays for installing them.
In Strovolos, however, the municipality covers all the costs for bollards, even when they are placed in front of private property.
“People find all the excuses in the world to park on pavements,” Strovolos Mayor Lazaros Savvides said. “We have wardens giving tickets but in some cases we are forced to install the poles. We only put them in in cases of repetition; when there is no other remedy.”
His predecessor, Savvas Eliophotou, waged a well-publicised battle against illegal parking for years before reluctantly concluding pavement poles were the only solution.
“The supposed-to-be-VIPs don’t let the traffic wardens carry out their work,” the former mayor told the Sunday Mail.
Eliophotou had tried to solve the problem by equipping traffic wardens with digital cameras to take pictures of offenders as proof. The court subsequently ruled that photos were inadmissible as evidence because they were an invasion of privacy and the municipality was warned not to allow employees to photograph violations.
“It was unacceptable for me, and it still is. The House of Representatives and the ministers didn’t give a damn about changing the law,” said the former mayor, clearly still irked by his lost battle.
“Unfortunately it is a fact of life that poles are the only means to keep Cypriots from parking anywhere at any time,” he said. “I was fed up eventually and put them up.”
Though the municipalities currently use the poles as the only effective method to keep people from parking on pavements, the solution is clearly to improve the law and the fining process.
“In other countries,” Eliophotou said, “the authorities have to submit at least two photos as evidence, and nobody has a problem with privacy.”
“The bollards should only be put in areas where there is a danger to people,” architect Dimitris Grendos said. “They are a half-hearted measure in many places where wardens can’t do their job properly. We should improve the fining process.”
Though Grendos doesn’t think they are ugly aesthetically, he commented that it would make sense to use the money from fines for repairs to the pavements instead, and in addition create income for the municipalities. “This way, not all the residents pay but only the people who commit the offence.”
Indeed, they seem to be more of an obstacle than help in some places. At the corner of Pericles and Arsinoe streets in the old town of Nicosia, for instance, the bollards make it impossible to negotiate something like a pushchair on the pavement. They are in the middle of an already very narrow pavement.
Spokesman Nicolaides said in some areas there was no choice.
“In some cases exceptions are made, like in this one. The aim is to protect the glass front of the building and the street corners in this densely populated area,” he told the Sunday Mail. “Certainly on this pavement neither a pushchair nor a wheelchair could be handled even before the installation.”
Just more proof that much needs to be done to improve the situation.