Letter: Bylaws officer fails as ‘goodwill ambassador’

So, if I drive from Kelowna to Vernon to Kamloops, I would need to educate myself on the bylaws for each city before driving there?

To the editor:

Although I grew up in Kelowna, I now reside in the central interior. However, I have been in Kelowna a lot over the past 6 weeks due to an ill parent and have been spending much of my time up at KGH and subsequently dealing with the parking issues that are ever present in that area. During these last few weeks, my dad and I had gotten into the habit of parking along Royal Avenue in the 2 hour parking spots. Whether my mom was in ER, on a ward or in her last few days in ICU, both my dad and I were diligent about going down every 2 hours and moving our vehicles as per the posted rules.

On Friday, October 3, despite my mom literally gasping for her every breath in ICU, we left her side and moved our vehicles as expected. My dad pulled out a couple of car lengths in front of me, I took his spot and since there was no one else looking for parking he circled around and parked in my now vacant one. Not 20 minutes later, I received a text from a family member that dad and I had both received parking tickets. Upon reading the ticket, I was made aware that we were ticketed because we had violated the bylaw that states that you cannot park for more than 2 consecutive hours in a single block, so even if you move your vehicle to an open space a car length or two ahead, under Kelowna’s bylaws you must move it to a different block or you are in violation of the bylaw. Once I read the ticket, I immediately tried to find the signage that detailed this information, and there is none. Both my dad and I are “rule followers” and have never had a ticket in any form, but I was frustrated that we had been ticketed for something that we were not aware of. Unfortunately, the stress of the day resulted in me leaving a very pointed, frustrated and angry message with bylaw enforcement. This is not my standard response to a situation like this, but this was literally the “straw that broke the camels back” as I felt that we were in the right as we had moved the cars as the posted rules state.

The following morning, upon leaving the hospital reeling from the passing of my mom, I received a call from bylaw enforcement. Upon realizing who I was talking to, I immediately voiced my apology about my the messages of the previous day and explained that I was frustrated about being penalized about a bylaw I was not aware of and that when combined with the stress of my mom had caused me to overreact. I also explained the situation about my mom’s illness and the fact that she had just passed away. It was never my intention to “get out of the ticket” as in the grand scheme of things, the $5 is neither here or there, but I did feel that I should object on the principle of not being adequately informed.

Although I should have recorded the bylaw officer’s name (especially in light of our conversation), I did not. What I did do was sit in my vehicle while he was rude, disrespectful and completely unprofessional in our dealings (in my opinion). After explaining the situation, offering my apology for the inappropriate messages and expressing my confusion, his response was to ask “if I had passed my driver’s license.” When I questioned him, he stated that “every driver is legally required to be aware of each and every driving bylaw for the city in which they drive” and that I should know that if I had indeed passed my license. I asked how I was supposed to know this information, when NOWHERE on Royal does it state that you must move your vehicle to a new block, and his response was “it is every driver’s responsibility to educate themselves on what the bylaws are.” Does that mean at the Welcome to Kelowna sign there should be a box with a book of bylaws that all drivers need to read before entering city limits? Is this the case for every city…so if I drive from Kelowna to Vernon to Kamloops, I would need to educate myself on the bylaws for each city before driving there? I was under the mistaken impression that this is the reason why we have signs and posters? When I questioned the officer on this, his response was that “the city does not have the space to post signs for each and every bylaw” and reiterated that it is the driver’s responsibility to know this information. So on an 8 foot sign post with a sign size consistent with a sheet of paper, there is no room to add a small caveat stating that in addition to the 2 hour rule, that you must also move to a new block? I am sure that I cannot be the only driver who was not aware that this bylaw existed and that a sign would help immensely to alleviate confusion like mine. He then proceeded to question whether I would park in front of a fire hydrant, and I replied that I would not as I know that is against the law and that the yellow curb denotes a no parking location. He responded to this by stating “but there is no sign posted there, yet you still know not to park there,” clearly insinuating that my question about the signage was pointless. There may be no sign in front of a fire hydrant, but it is clearly “posted” by the painting of the curb, just as other no parking zones are delineated. The officer then proceeded to remind me that if I had issues with the bylaws that I would have been welcome to park in KGH’s paid parking. I tried to explain to him that for the amount of time that I had spent at the hospital, I would have been broke by paying for paid parking for the past month and I stated that I wouldn’t have had an issue about parking on Royal Ave for two hours and then consistently moving my vehicle to a new block before my time ran out if I had been made aware of that bylaw through the provision of a sign.

Unfortunately, the conversation was completely circular and other than feeling belittled, confused, and provoked, I accomplished nothing more than losing my temper again and subsequently hanging up on the bylaw officer. Again much of this was in response to the emotions following the passing of my mother, but my frustrations and anger remain at the forefront of this incident as I still feel that my dad and I should have not have been ticketed for something that I was not aware of, and that even in the event of the ticket, the bylaw officer should have been more professional and considerate in explaining the process to me…”I am sorry for the confusion, please remember to educate yourself about our bylaws, but that the fine stands…” or something similar. I will reiterate, I have no issue paying the fine and I will most certainly do so (I am a rule follower through and through) as I was in the wrong according to the bylaw and I do feel sheepish regarding my original message with the bylaw office as that is not the appropriate method to deal with a situation (despite the stress). However I object on principle for being penalized for something that I was unaware of and that could have been avoided through a simple sign or comment on the sign post and following our phone conversation, I feel that the officer was completely unprofessional and combative.

Melinda MacKinnon,

as posted on Capital News Facebook

 

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