Bad parking clean-up operation
The vast number of drivers who violate the no-parking zones in Prague's city centre is a problem that has plagued council officials for a very long time. Last week they launched a counter-attack, in co-operation with the city police, giving many drivers a most unpleasant surprise. Daniela Lazarova has the story:
Finding that your car is not where you left it is a shock that a great many Prague drivers experienced last week. Tow-away services were kept very busy as - under police surveillance - they towed away 40 to 50 badly parked cars each day. And the shock of finding their car gone was not the only one experienced by drivers - on retrieving their car they were handed a 1,500 crown bill for the service - that's on top of a hefty parking fine. Others got to their cars in time and got off more cheaply - the price of having the wheel-clamp removed is somewhat lower.
Karel Zrout from the Prague Town Hall is one of the organisers of this campaign:
"There's been a steady stream of complaints from Prague residents who live in the city centre. Those of them with cars pay quite high parking fees and are naturally not very happy to find their parking space blocked by vehicles which have no right to be there. This happens on a daily basis. Pedestrians also complain that undisciplined drivers think nothing of parking on the pavement if they can't find anywhere else...so basically this campaign was launched in response to public demand."
It's not the first crack-down on undisciplined drivers, but this time town hall officials are determined to keep up the pressure until they see lasting results.
Karel Zrout again:
"We have a six-month action plan during which time we will repeat these tow-away operations as often as necessary. In certain streets the problem's worse than in others, and the situation in those problem streets will be monitored closely. Leaving a parking ticket behind the wipers and asking drivers to pay a fine is no longer effective. For many the fines are relatively small and they don't think twice about repeating the offence the next day. But finding their car gone is something else - something they are not going to want to risk again anytime soon."
The offending drivers themselves argue that there are simply not enough parking spaces in the city centre - especially in the busiest areas. That argument is true enough, but it is not one that local residents are willing to accept. Many are putting pressure on the city council to close off whole parts of the city centre, and make more of Prague's streets car-free.