Municipalities are increasingly using bollards and poles installed on pavements to discourage illegal parking and offset a general shortage of traffic wardens who are tasked with slapping fines on drivers who insist on parking wherever they want.
Whilst in many countries traffic wardens are given quotas for fines they are expected to issue, municipalities here insist that quotas are not the way to go.
Recently Strovolos municipality had refuted media reports that its traffic wardens were told by their superiors to fine mercilessly as they each had to raise €2,000 in fines by the end of the year.
“We were amazed to see those reports as our goal is not the money. Our foremost concern is ensuring road safety,” Giorgos Christodoulou, deputy municipal secretary and administrative head of the traffic department told the Sunday Mail.
Depending on the nature of the offence, several traffic wardens first issue warnings and hand out fines only if drivers refuse to comply, he said.
He said this was particularly the case between 2011 and 2015 when the economic recession was at its height.
“There must be a balance. But road safety is very important. They give advice and issue warnings but where it is necessary they must give fines,” Christodoulou said.
Even so, for the larger municipalities especially, fines are a welcome source of income. In larger areas like Limassol, annual income reaches almost a million euros. The municipality’s, income from traffic fines in 2015 was €900,000, according to Limassol mayor Andreas Christou. In smaller municipalities like Paralimni, which employs only two traffic wardens, income from fines was just over €11,000. Paphos municipality’s annual proceeds from traffic fines are around €110,000. The municipality employs ten traffic wardens.
While municipalities insist they do not use the quota system the number of fines each traffic warden issues is monitored.
Traffic violations on the streets range from parking on yellow lines, on pavements and in spaces reserved for the disabled.
“If a traffic warden comes in with only three fines while he’s been out for several hours it means that he did not do his job properly,” said the head of Larnaca municipality’s traffic department, Achilelas Limistiras.
On average, he said each traffic warden brings in between 150 and 250 reports each month, depending on the area they are stationed.
“In some areas, where there are central roads, there are more traffic violations than other areas,” Limistriras said.
As all employees, traffic wardens’ performance is monitored, Christodoulou said. “But like every municipality we calculate each year an estimate amount for proceeds. It is a matter of budget and income. But if this goal is not met, it does not mean that it is the traffic warden’s fault,” he said.
“Of course the number of fines is a way of controlling the performance of every traffic warden, but you need to also inspect them while on duty as each one works in their own way,” said the Nicosia municipality’s traffic chief Kypros Theodotou.
Across the board municipalities complain that they need more traffic wardens.
Strovolos municipality, for example, employs eight, of which five are out on the streets split in two shifts.
“Of course they are not enough. Strovolos is one of the biggest areas. We mostly oversee main road arteries,” Christodoulou said.
Traffic wardens also assist when there are events that attract traffic, or when roads are blocked due to building work. They also have to respond to calls and complaints made by residents.
“We receive around 300 and 350 complaints per year from residents for blocked driveways, illegal parking of vehicles that block visibility to others etc,” Christodoulou said.
On top of that, they have their judgement disputed by disgruntled drivers disputing the fine they have been given.
“There is seldom however a mistake,” Christodoulou said.
He said that up to 93 per cent of people pay their fines.
Public works on roads where drivers are used to being able to park are a major cause of traffic violations. In Paphos in particular extensive road works are currently underway.
“There are many traffic violations in Paphos, especially now when there are many construction works in the city centre,” Petrou said, adding they are used as an excuse by drivers who claim they had no other option but to park illegally.
“They claim they can’t find places to park. Several streets have been designated as one way streets due to the works, many ignore this and enter anyway, they also park on yellow lines and on sidewalks,” Petrou said.
Across the board, municipalities agree that bollards and poles to discourage illegal parking have made a significant difference.
“The bollards we installed recently have been very effective,” said Theodotou.
“We have observed that there is improvement mainly due to the measures we take, bollards and laying road lines,” Christodoulou said.