Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Parking in Cape Town

I live about 100km from the city and seldom have reason to travel into it, but this morning I did, for the first time in quite a while, and once I’d got there – after two hours in stop-go traffic and I know they’re making the roads nice for the World Cup next year but must they do it All At Once? – I was surprised by how much on-street parking was available.

Time was, in Cape Town city centre, you’d sell your left boob for a parking space. Not this morning. Although it was peak hour (about 8.45am by the time I finally got there), there was plenty of parking available – and this in Long Street!

I pulled into a parking space miraculously vacant directly outside the place I was due to have my meeting. I gave thanks to the goddesses for their generosity, got out my car and saw the sign. ‘Wheel clamping zone’ at the top, and with a graphic underneath illustrating this very thing; and, in smaller type, ‘Ticket available from parking marshall; be sure to press the red button’.

Curiouser and curiouser, as my late sainted mother used to say.

There was no traffic marshall, never mind a red button, in sight. I made enquiries of a few people standing idly about on the pavement (as people in Cape Town tend to do) and no-one had a clue what I was talking about. Parking marshall? Red button? Huh?

So here was my dilemma: go into the coffee shop where my meeting was due to take place without getting a ticket from the not-in-evidence parking marshall or pressing the nonexistent red button, and risk getting my wheels clamped; or not.

Since no instruction whatsoever was given on what to do in the unfortunate event of a wheel-clamping, I obviously chose instead to get back into my car, remove it from the ‘convenient’ parking space, drive it to the nearest take-a-ticket parking garage, and pay R28 directly through the nose for the privilege of leaving my car for all of one hour and 10 minutes in a place where a ‘parking marshall’ was actually in attendance.

I didn’t give this much additional thought (other than the irritation that comes with being thoroughly ripped off in a minor but terrifically niggling way) until I was walking back up Long Street to the parking garage after my meeting, and noticed again the extraordinary number of empty on-street parking spaces. I lived in Cape Town for almost 20 years and one thing I can tell you with utter certainty about Long Street is this: there was never a parking space available.

What is this? People are obviously not going to risk going to the clearly gigantic bother of getting their car’s wheels unclamped (given that there is no information what to do if this happens) by not doing what the signs tell them to do; yet what the signs tell them to do apparently exists in a parallel universe because it’s certainly not in this one.

I’m all for milking the city’s citizens/visitors dry just because they have business in the CBD and want to do this via the modern expedient of getting there by personal automobile, but to make it literally impossible to park without the scary notion of possibly having to track down someone (who?!) to remove an external brake from your car in order to get home again seems completely insane. Even by Cape Town’s standards.

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1 comment:

tonypark said...

Sounds like a very Australian story to me... intimidation through regulation without explanation.