Saturday, September 25, 2010


According to the Book of Wikipedia (all rise and genuflect), wheel clamping was invented in 1944 by two gentlemen in Denver, Colorado to address the problems of claims being made by drivers that their cars were damaged whilst being towed to the pounds.
It is doubtful whether the citizens of the world have ever included these two gentlemen in the prayers of the faithful at Mass, unless of course they happen to run a wheel-clamping business.
I have never been clamped (cross my fingers, touch wood, catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn) but I have always felt a certain empathy for the clampee, albeit with a little bit of secret and probably unattractive excitement that “someone’s heading for a big shock when they return to their car.”
I am of course naturally ashamed of this secret glee I feel on seeing somebody else’s vehicle dressed in the tell-tale yellow triangle that proclaims to the world that the owner is a hardened criminal. However, as one of the intractable laws of physics states, the degree of joy increases in direct relation to the value of the car clamped.
Of course, most clampees are victims of an outrageous miscarriage of justice, having only parked in the disabled space for ten seconds while they dashed into the shop to buy some of Trevelyan’s corn so the young might see the morn.
To be honest, I have mixed feelings about clamping. Surely by clamping a car illegally parked in a disabled space, you are further depriving the disabled driver of a parking space for a much longer period of time. Would it not be much less expensive to simply issue a parking ticket, rather than employ a company to fix the Denver Boot onto vehicles?
Having said that, it is hard to feel any sympathy for an able-bodied driver caught in such a way. And don’t tell me that you have never watched a driver getting out of a car in a disabled space to make sure he has some kind of physical disability! Human nature at times can be a terrible thing.
Everybody knows that if you park on double yellow lines, or in a disabled space, you do so at the risk of getting a fine or a clamp. For me, planning a journey should always involve making time to find a suitable parking space, even if it means walking ten minutes. But sadly, today, many people seem to take the ‘having a dog’ philosophy. Why walk at all when you have a car?
Driving around Blanchardstown, it is surprising at how much the release fee varies from one area to another. It is strongly advised that the would-be lawbreaker shops around for illegal parking spaces first, so he can get real value for money. I am thinking of setting up a compare-your-clamping-fees website, so drivers can plan their rule flouting before they depart their homes.
City centre and public street clamping is one thing however but nowadays clampers are operating in private estates on behalf of the management committees. I know of one such estate in my locality. Naturally I won’t mention its name but it is the exact opposite of Archers Wouldn’t.
Here the home owners suffer the slings and arrows of having to pay for permits to park outside their homes. (Would it not be better to issue free permits once the management fees are paid?) Anybody caught without a permit is summarily clamped. However, this has led to a certain degree of anger among residents due to the anomalies of the situation.
Suppose you have friends over? Naturally they would have to park in the next estate to avoid the yellow peril.
If a tradesman comes in a van, he cannot park in the estate at all.
There is no signage on the main road through the estate and no yellow lines, yet drivers parking there are liable to be clamped.
If you have a valid permit but all the spaces are occupied, what are you supposed to do? Park in the next block? No sir, your permit only applies to the spaces in your immediate vicinity.
And what do the residents of the adjacent, Fingal County Council estate think at the sudden increase in cars parked along their roads?
In Scotland, wheel clamping on private land has been judged illegal, as it amounts to ‘extortion and theft.’ In England and Wales, the operator has to apply for a licence before clamping can commence, with strict guidelines on qualification. In places like Rockall and Antarctica, I believe, wheel clamping is non-existent.
Naturally in Ireland, the laws on clamping on private property are much vaguer and await a serious testing in the courts. However, as has been pointed out on more than one occasion, the GardaĆ­ are unlikely to get involved in an issue of clamping on private property as it is a civil matter.
If that is the case, then surely removal of the clamp by the owner of the vehicles involved is also a civil matter not involving the GardaĆ­. The difficulty is of course to release the clamp without damaging it, otherwise you might be charged with criminal damage. Then again, the clamper, in the subsequent court case, would have to prove it was the owner who removed the clamp and not some local yahoo, hell-bent on mischief...
What angers residents most is that the action seems less of a war on people who are parking illegally and more of a revenue generating exercise for the management company concerned. Drivers have been clamped in the middle of the day with many empty parking spaces around and who are obviously not causing hardship for anybody else wishing to park there. While this may be justification to the ‘rules are rules’ brigade, it fails to address any of the ostensible reasons why the scheme was introduced in the first place.
Personally, I don’t think these management companies are going far enough in their war on stationary vehicles (not to be confused with stationery vehicles bringing much needed envelopes and paper clips to beleaguered householders) I mean, why stop at private vehicles?
If they see a gang of youths hanging around at a street corner, particularly those wearing hoodies, they should automatically clamp them, with a €100 release fee. That would soon put a start to their gallop, to coin a phrase. When the postman leaves his bike parked up against a hedge, clamp it. Two neighbours chatting about the glorious weather we’re having, women pushing prams who stop to admire each other’s babies in the street, trees, lampposts, fire hydrants, the bin trucks, the ice-cream van – clamp them all, anything that doesn’t move. Very soon, there’d be no need for management fees.
Of course, there are enterprising ways around it. Remove your wheels and bring them inside when you park. There’s no way the clampers are going to clamp the breeze blocks now supporting your car.
Better still, buy a set of used clamps on eBay and attach them to your four wheels. Then you can park anywhere and you’ll never be clamped. Simply unlock them when you’re finished, throw them in your boot and drive away.

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