Winston-Salem City Council members may be looking at an increase in fines for illegal parking on city sidewalks, as the city looks also at parking problems in general.
The City Council’s public safety committee talked about parking problems recently, and received a report showing that parking fines tend to be lower here than elsewhere in the state.
The penalty for parking on a city sidewalk is only $15, although that can rise to $30 if there’s a sign present prohibiting parking in general in the area.
“It might be prudent to see how significant a problem it is, but I do agree that $15 is no big deal,” said East Ward Council Member Annette Scippio. “That is a very low number for an obstruction of where people are walking.”
South Ward Council Member John Larson said he got the ball rolling on the issue and was surprised to find city fines so low.
“This evolved out of the discussion over the electric scooters and what is allowed on sidewalks and what is not,” Larson said.
The city’s fine for exceeding the time allowed on the parking meter is lower than in many places as well, city officials said.
The city’s fine for that violation is $15, but Charlotte fines motorists $25 and High Point charges $50. Raleigh has a $20 fine, and Asheville does as well. On the other hand, Greensboro and Chapel Hill have a $15 fine for violating the time limit, the same as in Winston-Salem.
High Point and Chapel Hill charge a $50 fine for parking on a sidewalk, while Raleigh has a $30 fine and Greensboro’s is $35. Charlotte imposes a $25 fine, but Durham, at $20, was the only city surveyed to approach the Winston-Salem fine.
Assistant City Attorney Lori Sykes, who researched the fines for the city, said that from Jan. 1 to Nov. 20, Winston-Salem had issued 43 tickets for parking on the sidewalks.
The city can fine a driver $15 for parking too far from the curb, parking at the wrong angle or parking outside the designated lines on the pavement.
Prohibited parking spaces, in addition to sidewalks, include parking in an intersection, alleyway, within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or within 25 feet of intersection curb lines. Parking drivers have to stay 25 feet away from a flashing beacon, 50 feet from a railroad crossing, 15 feet away from a fire station entrance and 75 feet away from such an entrance on the opposite side of the street from the entrance (to give big trucks room to maneuver).
Most of those violations are $15 fines, but obstructing a fire hydrant or fire or garbage vehicle can cost you $50. A $250 fine can come your way if you park in a handicapped space.
Rodd Ring, transportation operations manager, said enforcement of parking regulations is divided between two city entities.
Downtown, city transportation employees patrol the central downtown business district and ticket violators. Away from downtown, police handle parking complaints on a complaint-driven basis.
Council members said it’s not just parking on the sidewalk that is causing a problem. With cars parking or driving in bike lanes and people running for exercise on the roads, Northeast Ward Council Member Vivian Burke said, “someone is going to be hurt if we don’t get on that real seriously.”
“You need to make a few of them an example and maybe the other ones will stop,” Burke said.
Southwest Ward Council Member Dan Besse said Hawthorne Road is the source of most sidewalk-parking complaints that he hears.
“The other is in front of Wake Forest Baptist in the area designated no parking,” Besse said. “It is used on a routine basis by people picking up hospital employees. They will park and put their flashers on.”
Police also often have more important things to do, Besse added. It may take longer than someone thinks it should for an officer to show up, he said. At the same time, people told to call police if they have a complaint often say they don’t have time to make the call.
Council members are saying a fine increase shouldn’t be put in suddenly.
“If we are going to make changes, we need to look hard and get a lot of citizen involvement,” Northwest Ward Council Member Jeff MacIntosh said.