Photo by Richard Haddad, WNI.
Originally Published: June 3, 2017 6:02 a.m.
You’re circling the courthouse plaza in your extended-cab pickup, and you spot an angled parking space right on Gurley Street.
Do you squeeze in, even though your vehicle doesn’t technically fit within the space’s lines?
One hundred and fifty-seven drivers who paid fines of nearly $100 in 2016 would likely tell you an emphatic “No.”
And the nine drivers whose vehicles were towed away because of the violation — at total costs of as much as $250 — would probably be even more forceful.
Sgt. Brian Dever, traffic safety section supervisor of the Prescott Police Department, says the issue with high-profile vehicles parking where they shouldn’t appears to be on the rise.
And that has led to more enforcement of the city’s “If you don’t fit, don’t park” policy in the shorter-than-normal angled parking spaces in the downtown area.
‘It’s a safety issue’
Information from Police Chief Debora Black indicates that the city issued 157 citations in 2016 for vehicles not parked within markings along Gurley Street. Most of those instances involved vehicles that were too long for the spaces, Dever said.
“First of all, it’s a safety issue,” Dever said of the violating vehicles. “If they stick out (of the parking space), that can block a lane of traffic.”
That, in turn, can lead other drivers to veer into another lane or brake suddenly, which can result in side-swipe or rear-end crashes.
Sometimes, Dever said, the issue involves hitches or bike racks attached to the end of a vehicle. If either extends into the lane of traffic, it can create a dangerous situation, he said.
Bicyclists can be especially susceptible to the hitches, Dever said. “We have a lot of bicycle traffic, and sometimes you can’t see the hitches; they blend in with the roadway,” he said.
While the violations tend to go in spurts, Dever said the number of calls about vehicles blocking traffic appears to be on the upswing. Black’s numbers indicate the police department received 44 calls for service involving vehicles sticking out in traffic on Gurley in 2016.
Dever said the violations often involve drivers who come to town pulling recreational vehicles, park the trailers, and then visit the downtown.
No plans to change
Ian Mattingly, traffic engineer for the city, says the angled parking configuration makes the most sense on Gurley Street because of the limited space available.
“Traffic-volume needs currently, and projected, on Gurley Street are such that four through-lanes are needed,” he said. “This makes the elimination of any lanes detrimental to traffic flow.”
The city also is not considering other parking configurations, Mattingly said, because “the parking supply in the downtown area is very important to business owners and the city.”
Therefore, he said, “Converting the existing angled parking to parallel, or reducing the stall numbers by using alternative layouts, is not being explored.”
Rather, the city has opted to limit the Gurley spaces to “appropriate sized vehicles,” Mattingly said, along with signs, markings and enforcement.
He maintains, “With public participation in obeying these restrictions, the parking and traffic flow can be balanced.”
Still, for those drivers who aren’t paying attention, or for visitors to town who are unaware of the rules, the expenses can be steep.
Dever said the citation for not parking within the markings comes with a $93 ticket.
If the Police Department takes the matter to the next level — towing — the costs escalate. Depending the type of tow required — for instance, if no keys are available and a winch is needed — “When it’s all said and done, it will be close to $250,” Dever said.
He emphasized, though, that towing is the last resort, and officers try to avoid it.
“It happens when they truly are completely in the lane of traffic,” he said of the need to tow.
Officers will always try to notify the driver before calling a tow truck, Dever added. First of all, the officers run the license plate through the city’s computer system and try to find a contact number. Also, if the vehicle is parked in front of a restaurant, Dever said the officer will go inside and try to find the driver.
“Our goal is to move it,” Dever said of the violating vehicle. “We’d rather solve the issue and get it moved as soon as possible.”
But if all of the officer’s efforts are unsuccessful, and if the vehicle is causing a safety hazard, Dever said the officer will call one of the towing companies on the city’s rotational contract, and have the vehicle moved.