Parking fine deadline has Macau bikers up in arms

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 January, 2008, 12:00am

Thousands of motorcyclists are keeping their fingers crossed that the Macau government will ease up on the enforcement of fines for illegal parking as the deadline for renewing their licences looms.

A deeply unpopular traffic law, which took effect in October, requires motorcyclists to pay off their parking tickets when they renew their licences from January to March.

Those failing to clear fines will not be able to.

Winnie Ao, 28, has accumulated 10 tickets, which might cost her up to 3,000 patacas when she renews her licence.

'Ten tickets is actually not very bad. Wish me good luck when I go to the transport division,' Ms Ao said.

It is not unusual for motorcyclists to accumulate dozens of unpaid tickets.

A ticket for illegal parking brings a fine of 200 patacas if paid within 15 days, rising to 300 patacas thereafter.

The traffic law has sparked criticism that it is out of touch with Macau's lack of parking spaces - there are 80,000 motorcycles but less than 40,000 parking spaces.

Illegal parking seems unavoidable.

A day before it took effect on October 1, more than 3,000 motorcyclists jammed Macau's main roads in a slow-ride protest.

Lee Kin-yun, who organised the protest, threatens more action if the authorities strictly enforce the fines.

'We'll see what happens when people renew their licences. There will be immediate action if they are forced to clear off their parking tickets,' Mr Lee said.

So far, the transport division has only required those who come forward to renew their licences to pay tickets issued on or after October 1.

Older tickets did not have to be paid off 'for the time being', motorcyclists were told when renewing their licences over the past few days.

Legislator Au Kam-san, who voted for the traffic law, said the legislation was necessary to keep Macau streets in order.

'Illegal parking must be fined, otherwise the whole city will become chaotic,' Mr Au said.

He said the authorities had worked hard to provide parking spaces but the number of motorcycles was growing too fast.

The government has pledged to increase the number of motorcycle spaces to nearly 50,000 in the near future.

The police's transport department did not return calls.

Tens of thousands of Macau commuters rely on motorcycles as the city's buses are often overcrowded and their routes badly planned. The shortage of taxis does not help - the city has less than 1,000.