Why can we no longer walk freely on sidewalks?
One will often come across a situation in Tbilisi where it is virtually impossible to walk on the city’s sidewalks because of the cars parked there. While this situation makes walking in Tbilisi inconvenient for everyone, it creates particularly difficult problems for the disabled individuals moving in wheelchairs as well as for the people carrying children in strollers.
This situation is shameful and completely unacceptable for a modern city, yet the agencies responsible for solving the problem have done nothing to address the situation for years and, in some cases, have actually made the situation worse.
According to Article 37 of the Georgian Law on Road Traffic, parking a car on a sidewalk is prohibited except for the cases where an appropriate sign is installed on the sidewalk and the relevant marking is present. It is debatable, whether the law should allow for parking on a sidewalk even as an exception but it is clear that a large majority of drivers whose cars are parked on Tbilisi’s sidewalks are violating the law even in its current wording.
Logically, we should ask: If the drivers who park cars on Tbilisi’s sidewalks are violating the law, why are they not being sanctioned accordingly, given that it would reduce the likelihood of repeated violations and help solve the problem of blocked sidewalks?
The number of cars has grown rapidly in Tbilisi over the last decade, which has naturally created a shortage of parking spaces. However, instead of developing and implementing a complex plan for addressing this problem, the Tbilisi City Hall decided to eliminate the shortage of parking spaces through a de facto legalization of parking on sidewalks, so in Tbilisi can effectively escape unpunished even where they park their cars on a sidewalk in direct violation of the law cited above.
Private company C.T. Park has been managing parking in Tbilisi for several years now. The company’s website carries the same rules for parking on sidewalks as the law mentioned above, while also stating that cars parked on sidewalks in violation of these rules will be fined and transferred to special parking lots.
The restrictions on sidewalk parking are not being enforced in practice, which is probably the result of the Tbilisi City Hall’s failure in recent years to demand that C.T. Park perform its direct obligations (unless the situation is even worse and the City Hall has actually asked C.T. Park to turn a blind eye to the violations committed by the drivers who park on sidewalks).
It is worth mentioning that the Patrol Police has not done anything to solve the problem either.
The Tbilisi City Hall’s new leadership has already expressed its dissatisfaction with C.T. Park’s performance. However, to the best of our knowledge, ignoring the rights of pedestrians was not among the City Hall’s primary criticisms against C.T. Park. The City Hall’s representatives have also spoken about the possible revision of the contract with C.T. Park.
Regardless of whether the contract with C.T. Park will be revised and whether the company continues to manage parking in Tbilisi in the future, the Tbilisi City Hall should immediately require the company to ensure that pedestrians can freely walk on the city’s sidewalks by applying the sanctions provided for by the current law (fines and transfer to special parking lot) are applied in practice. The current practice of marking spaces for parking on sidewalks in some of Tbilisi’s streets should also be revised.
If the City Hall aspires to transform Tbilisi into a civilized modern city and if it does not consider pedestrians and people with disabilities to be second-rate citizens, it should immediately start removing cars parked in violation of the law from the city’s sidewalks.