Parking in Balham

You’ll often hear people saying that Mail writers live in a different world to the rest of us. Actually, I think that they live in the same world as us, they just like to think that they live in a different one. The fun and games start when they discover they are wrong and that the real world doesn’t appreciate their over-developed sense of entitlement.

Here’s a good case in point. Melissa Kite lives somewhere near me in Balham. Melissa is a serial parking offender. Of course, Melissa doesn’t see it quite like that. Melissa describes herself as being a victim of “bear traps” laid by councils to trick motorists who dare to park on their patch. When she parked up at Balham tube station “at 8pm for ten seconds in order to pick up a friend who was coming to stay with me and who was weighed down with luggage” she was appalled to be given an £80 fine.

And there’s that sense of entitlement. This is what really annoys me about people like Melissa. There are parking restrictions around Balham station. They have been there for as long as I can remember and they are clearly marked. But because they are inconvenient for her, she feels she is perfectly justified in ignoring them. Balham station is at junction where two busy roads cross. The parking restrictions are there for a good reason (and, no, not to make money for the council – to prevent congestion). They aren’t there to trick people like Melissa.

But we can find out more about Melissa’s parking problems with Wandsworth council. She wrote about a very similar incident in the Evening Standard a year ago. This gives more details of the offence. She was parking in a taxi rank. The taxi rank is a relatively new innovation. It’s been there three or four years. But, once again, it’s clearly marked. And, once again, Melissa chose to ignore that because it was inconvenient for her. She also mentions four other offences where she was picking someone up or dropping them off at the station and chose to park in a restricted area.

Amusingly, she even describes a telephone conversation she had with someone from Wandsworth council.

I rang Wandsworth council to tell them this but their spokesman sounded distinctly unimpressed. “Well, I don’t know what you were doing there,” he said.

“But I’ve just told you,” I said. “I was picking up a friend.”

He sighed: “People come up with all sorts of stories.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re asking me to assume that everything you’re saying is the truth.”

At which point I confess I raised my voice a little: “Yes I am!”

“Right,” he harrumphed, “you’re shouting, I’m ending the call.” And he slammed the phone down.

So I rang the parking department, where someone called Angelo explained that when running errands I should always stop on single yellow lines

There’s that sense of entitlement again. She honestly seems to believe that “I was picking up a friend” is a reasonable excuse for ignoring the parking restrictions. Balham Station Road would be in chaos for most of the day if everyone chose to ignore the rules because they were “just picking up a friend”.

Then there’s this lovely paragraph from the end of her article.

Very soon, Westminster council will abolish free parking on a single yellow line in the evenings. And when they do so, I will stop going up West on a Tuesday night as I have done for the past six years to meet a group of friends with whom I have dinner in a Lebanese restaurant.That restaurant will lose us as regular customers forever, and goodness knows how many others.

If only she lived in a city where there was a quick and efficient public transport system. Perhaps something that whisked passengers to their destination through underground tubes. I know travelling on the tube can be a bit of a nightmare in rush hour. But on a Tuesday night, it should be fine. Or perhaps people like Melissa are too self-important to mix with the rest of us in a confined space like that.

There may, of course, be a serious point to her objections. Perhaps the parking restrictions are too draconian. Never let it be said that I object to a nice bit of civil disobedience to protest against bad laws. But you need to be prepared to take the punishment. You can’t expect to have the fine waived just because it’s inconvenient to you.

Actually, this is all academic to me. Like the vast majority of sane Londoners we don’t have a car. Most weekends I walk to the supermarket and carry the shopping home. If it’s going to be a huge shop then we’ll order on the internet and get it delivered. And if friends arrive at Balham station overburdened with luggage then we’ll offer to meet them there and help them carry it home. If we’re feeling particularly lazy we might offer to pay for them to get a taxi. From the rank right outside the station. Assuming it’s not full of idiots with 4x4s and an over-developed sense of entitlement.


  1. I wish that was only Balham. Even out in the shires we get people parking (in our case, double yellow lines alongside the post office, at a junction, making it hard to turn the corner) with that sense of self-entitlement.

    This is *always* brought up at the monthly policing forum, and they always promise to ticket more aggressively, but never do.

    Also: putting on your hazards does not relieve you from traffic laws and let you park anywhere you like.

  2. I live in a rural village where the road layout was created long before cars were thought off. Parking is a constant complaint the parish council gets.

    We have come down to the old way to fit more cars in the village is start knocking people’s houses down – not a viable strategy.

    Car drivers are mostly selfish and don’t think about how their actions impact over car drivers let alone bikers or pedestrians. I have no tolerance of their selfish and dangerous behaviour and now photograph their cars and report them to the police – some times it even has an effect too!

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