Patrick Pentony prefers to take the long way to pick up his eldest son from primary school at Red Hill rather than risk a parking fine in the 15-minute zones outside the school.
He is fortunate enough to be able to walk. Between about 2:45 pm and 3:30 pm each school day along Astrolabe St, it is quicker for him to walk than drive anyway.
Since parking enforcement vans have started doing laps around many Canberra schools at this time of day, Mr Pentony says going by foot is certainly a lot cheaper too.
There are about 20 parking spaces outside Red Hill School that are seen as pole position for the daily school pick-up and drop-offs. Each of them has a limit of 15 minutes and Mr Pentony says it seems grossly unfair for the ACT Government to target parking zones such as these.
Mr Pentony poses a simple question to RiotACT readers: should short-stay parking around schools be increased to 30 minutes?
“If you have children in pre-school and primary school, usually the start and finish times are 15 minutes apart,” Mr Pentony told Region Media.
“The parking zone here is a real issue and a few concerned parents have approached me as president of the P&C and said they have received parking tickets because they have one child at the pre-school and another in primary school.”
Mr Pentony is president of the Red Hill Parents and Citizens Association, but stresses his views are his own and not those of the P&C committee.
To avoid possible fines, one parent has gone so far as to pay $20 a week to a local family to park in their driveway.
“For these parents and plenty more like them, they are faced with getting in their cars and giving up a parking spot to pick up their second child. Once they leave, there’s not another parking spot anyway.”
While Mr Pentony said the parking vans are well within their rights to be giving tickets to people who park illegally, he sees the regular rounds of the vans as simple revenue-raising from parents who are just trying to get their children home from school safely.
“By having the 15-minute window for people picking up young kids, especially if they have more than one child at separate schools, makes them vulnerable to a parking fine.
“I suspect most people are parking for more than 30 minutes anyway, so why not just extend the timeframe to make it fairer?”
Mr Pentony said parents regularly park on the verge opposite the school, or double-park in the driveways of homeowners. He said many of them are also fed up with the bottleneck that’s been created.
“I know there are lots of tickets that have been handed out. I’d much prefer to see someone out here telling the people who are dangerously parked to move along, but instead, it’s just easier for the parking enforcement van to drive along collecting the money.”
Mr Pentony said extending the parking zone to 30 minutes would help many parents who don’t have the luxury of only having one child at either of the schools.
He said with 802 students at the school and more enrolments expected next year, the problem is only going to worsen.
“We’re trying to educate parents to park on streets nearby and find parking spaces a little further away, but unfortunately, with everyone short on time and in a rush, it becomes very hard to do.
“It’s only a matter of time before we, unfortunately, have something terrible happen.
“For these people who are currently parking in a safe parking space, would it make a difference if they were allowed to stay there for half an hour?”
Mr Pentony said the issue is not only affecting parents at Red Hill School, with similar parking issues experienced at other schools in Red Hill and nearby suburbs.
“How do we educate parents to perhaps just be a little bit more courteous when they are dropping off or picking up their kids from school?
“That 15-minute carpark is one tiny bit of the problem that could be changed and it wouldn’t really affect many people.”
For the meantime, Mr Pentony is happy to take his 15 minutes and a familiar path for his daily walk.
Are parking fines an issue at your school? Join the conversation in the comments below.