WORCESTER — Illegal sidewalk parking has long vexed Worcester residents, and the city now has a plan to step up both enforcement and public awareness.
In a communication to the City Council attached to its Sept. 19 meeting agenda, Department of Transportation and Mobility Commissioner Stephen Rolle wrote the city is working to implement a coordinated effort to educate the public about sidewalk parking, enforce parking rules, address issues with street width in some areas and improve lane marking and signage.
Rolle's report came at the request of orders from District 2 City Councilor Candy Mero-Carlson and Councilor-at-Large Khrystian King. Mero-Carlson said at a June City Council meeting that sidewalk parking has made streets unsafe for people with disabilities, the elderly and children heading to school.
In his report, Rolle wrote sidewalk parking can be found in both residential and commercial parts of the city."Whether in residential neighborhoods or commercial districts, vehicles parked with wheels over the curb and/or on the sidewalk is not an uncommon sight in Worcester," Rolle wrote.
Violators could be unaware of rules
Writing that sidewalk parking rules are not consistently enforced, Rolle said Worcester residents may believe illegal parking is permissible. High-congestion neighborhoods with limited parking spaces to meet demand, like the North End of Boston, do not see high levels of sidewalk parking because of consistent enforcement, Rolle wrote.
The Department of Transportation and Mobility is developing a webpage with information about parking regulations and their purpose. For a brief period in the fall, the parking control officers will issue an educational information flyer to vehicles parked on the sidewalk or facing the wrong direction on the street in lieu of a ticket except for egregious infractions.
Police officers may continue to issue tickets in this period.
After the period, parking control officers intend to fully enforce parking regulations on any part of the sidewalk.
One well-known destination for street parking in the city is Canterbury Street. On a Friday morning where few people were out and about on the street, several parked cars were spotted with one side on the sidewalk. Several of these parked cars were near residences.
A drive through the Bell Hill neighborhood Friday also revealed several illegally parked cars on sidewalks. Several were also near homes.
One illegally parked car was spotted in the residential streets in the Shrewsbury Street neighborhood, and a car was spotted Friday briefly parked on the sidewalk on Harding Street in the Canal District.
Along with mentioning inconsistent enforcement, Rolle wrote that other factors related to sidewalk parking include lane widths not being wide enough to accommodate on-street parking and the increasing prevalence of larger vehicles.
While neighborhoods with higher demand for on-street parking might see more sidewalk parking, Rolle wrote sidewalk parking typically occurs even when on-street parking is less scarce.
Streets not wide enough
There are streets in Worcester, particularly residential streets in older neighborhoods, where the width is insufficient to handle parking on both sides. Rolle said residents and city councilors can be proactive in requesting regulation changes for these streets.
The city can also better use lane markings and signage to define parking locations, Rolle wrote. Arterial and collector streets often only have a yellow line marking the middle of the street.
Rolle pointed to Canterbury Street as a two-way street where the width from curb to curb is not enough to facilitate street parking on both sides and sidewalk parking is common even in low-demand times. Improved lane markings and regulations could help address sidewalk parking on Canterbury Street, he wrote.
Residential side streets in the Shrewsbury Street neighborhood are another example of lanes that are too narrow and may warrant a change from two-way to one-way.
The Department of Transportation and Mobility will review load demand and curb availability before making regulation changes, Rolle wrote.
At the Sept. 19 meeting, Robert Bureau, chair of the city's Accessory Advisory Commission, said tackling illegal sidewalk parking mattered to residents with disabilities such as himself.
"It's impossible for someone whose using a wheelchair to access the sidewalks if they're illegally parked on," Bureau said.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: Illegal sidewalk parking targeted by Worcester City Council