Sticking It to ‘The Man’ – by Tommy | OPINION
I commute on two wheels when I have to go in to the office near Heathrow. As far as I can tell it’s a positive approach to commuting where everyone’s a winner.
One less tin box on the road equals more road space, less jams and more parking at the destination. In theory, happier commuters. The fuel economy on my Aprilia SRV850 is good (one for the Greens), and German car drivers get to play chicken with me as I try to filter on the four motorways I have to negotiate to get to work. From my side, I always arrive at work with a smile on my face and now have a much-envied collection of German car nearside mirrors.
As I work near a major airport, parking is always a premium at my place of work. There is no designated motorcycle parking so I discussed this with the building managers and agreed that it was counterproductive to utilise a parking space with a bike. Instead we settled on using an area adjacent to a cycle rack, tight up to a curb. Everyone’s a winner, common sense prevailed.
Roll on five months and the building owners (who had been having problems with illegal parking) decided to sub-contract control of parking to an outside company. I cannot name names, but the company who took control were born out of the ashes of a wheel clamping company whose practices eventually lead to that method of enforcement (extortion) being outlawed. As a result there was now a distinct lack of common sense to parking at the building.
I continued to park my bike in the agreed spot and some four months passed without incident, however, on one May evening I returned to find a ticket slapped on the screen of my bike. I won’t bore you with the details of bounced communications with Ronnie and Reggie of ‘Parking Pirates Ltd’. Suffice to say that even after pointing out the agreement between me and the building owners, I was met with standard letters threatening escalation of fines and putting said fees in the hands of debt recovery agents.
I’d left the ticket on the screen, so wrote to them giving them 14 days to make arrangements to remove it. There was clearly nothing in their standard letter templates to deal with this, so my request went ignored. After 14 days I issued them an invoice for my time and materials used to remove the ticket, giving them 30 days to pay. Fast-forward a couple of months and despite reminders, they still hadn’t paid my invoice. My next move was to issue small claims court proceedings on them. Basically you can do it online for a very small fee and I was enjoying goading them and tying them up in admin and further costs!
Proceedings were acknowledged by the court and my opponent elected to put the matter in the hands of his solicitors (more costs). I had my day in court. The Judge accepted that their fine was unjustified and I had taken reasonable steps to park safely and courteously. On the flip-side he thought I was unreasonable in taking them to court so told us both to ‘walk away’.
It’s fair to say that at some point during this process my laid-back persona left, to be replaced by a kind of cross between Citizen Smith and the smarmy bloke off the Lawyers4U adverts. I wanted justice and a way to give them a taste of their own medicine. It was never about the invoice or the money; it was about wasting more of their time and money than they could of mine.
In the end it cost me £25 and some time in preparing for court. It cost them over £250 in letters and solicitors fees. Maybe not a complete vindication, but certainly a moral victory.
The point of the story is simply to inspire. If you are faced with injustice then don’t put up with it. While it may cost you some time to fight your corner, it can also provide amusement. If the parking Nazis keep losing in court then it’ll soon stop them handing out unjustified tickets.
Should I pay a fine?
Parking ‘fines’ imposed by private firms are often just an invoice, rather than an enforceable fine so don’t automatically roll over and play dead. If you know you’ve parked somewhere that’s likely to upset somebody maybe learn from the mistake (would you want somebody parking on your drive and blocking you in?). If you’ve been courteous and think it’s unfair then it probably is, so read up before paying up.
More information about fighting parking charges can be found at the following: