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Traffic and road safety in Hong Kong

Hong Kong drivers escape stiffer fines for illegal parking, as Legco urges authorities to solve car park shortage first

But lawmakers approve hike in fines for five traffic offences, and offenders will stump up 25 per cent more from June 1 next year

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 8:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 October, 2017, 10:29pm

Hong Kong drivers received a reprieve from higher penalties for illegal parking in certain circumstances, after a Legislative Council subcommittee threw out a government proposal and told it to solve the shortage in parking spaces first.

However, while the subcommittee did not approve of raising fines for nine parking offences, it gave the green light for increasing fines for five other traffic offences.

The penalties left unchanged included those for loading or unloading goods in restricted zones, unauthorised parking, parking on a pavement and parking in contravention of a traffic sign or road marking.

However, those who unlawfully enter a junction box, pick up or alight passengers in a restricted zone and make U-turns that cause obstruction will have to pay up to 25 per cent more from June 1 next year. This will be the first increase in fines since 1994.

In explaining why the subcommittee rejected some of the hikes, chairman and transport sector lawmaker Frankie Yick Chi-ming said commercial vehicles already struggled to find parking spaces in the city.

“Considering the fact that we are in a great shortage of loading and unloading areas at the moment, even if we raise the fixed penalty for [such activity] in restricted zones, drivers will be forced to park illegally because of the shortage [of parking spaces],” Chan said.

“It will cause greater traffic congestion and the cost of the fine increase will be transferred to consumers.”

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As of last year, there was about one parking space per vehicle, or 743,000 lots for 746,000 vehicles, down from 1.22 lots per vehicle 10 years earlier.

The city has lost 1,888 car parking spaces since 2013 due to changing land use.

The government had hoped to increase all fines by 50 per cent, but the increase was pegged at 25 per cent in a subcommittee meeting in June.

Fines for four of the five offences will rise to HK$400 from HK$320, while the penalty for picking up or dropping off passengers in a restricted zone will increase to HK$560 from HK$450.

In response to the subcommittee’s decision on Tuesday, the government warned that the lack of parking spaces should not justify breaking the law.

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“Some drivers for the sake of convenience or to save on parking fees choose to park on roadsides and we think we should not condone such illegal behaviour,” Deputy Secretary for Transport and Housing Ivy Law Chui-mei said.

The Transport Advisory Committee has received 900 complaints against illegal parking so far this year – up 7 per cent from the same period in 2016.

Law added that the government would look to increase penalties moderately but with greater frequency instead of “in one go”.

In Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s policy address earlier this month, she revealed that the government was looking to implement a series of short, medium and long-term measures to increase parking spaces across the city.

These measures included letting commercials vehicles park overnight in unoccupied spaces and bays at developments under construction and requiring developers to provide more parking spaces.