A Smart car parked in Italy
A Smart car owner has won a year-long battle over a £50 parking ticket given because she parked at a right angle to the kerb. But what is the law, asks Chris Stokel-Walker.
Vanessa Price has managed to get a £50 parking fine levied against her by Gloucestershire County Council overturned by an adjudicator, who said she did not break any road regulations by parking her Smart car at 90 degrees to the kerb.
Price was given the ticket because the front of her car peeked out from the parking bay lines in Stroud, Gloucestershire. It was overturned because the rule that drivers must park within markings does not apply in limited waiting spaces on highways.
Smart cars have been on sale in the UK since 2000, and are immediately recognisable for their small size. Though Smart's current marketing material suggests drivers parallel park into tight spots, some owners take advantage of the size of the Smart car, which at 2.69m is only slightly longer than the average car is wide, to park perpendicular to the kerb.
Price even suggested in her defence against the parking fine that the Smart website illustrates how to park perpendicularly to the kerb. The company's Facebook group has occasionally highlighted such practices. But is this parking legal?
No one is sure.
Two solicitors specialising in parking law could not say whether perpendicular, rather than parallel, parking in a Smart car could fall foul of the law.
The Local Government Association directed inquiries to the British Parking Association (BPA), a trade body that is, according to its website, a "recognised authority on parking".
"As far as we are aware, we have not come across this particular issue before," a spokesperson said. But vehicles have to follow general parking laws, regardless of the type of vehicle, and the size of the space they're pulling in to.
"There is no law that specifies the size of a parking bay, but there are guidelines. Roads can be different widths so parking needs to be managed appropriately. The BPA works with government to ensure parking and traffic signs are reviewed as necessary and reflect the changing needs of society."
The BPA's guide for drivers, Know Your Parking Rights, covers many thorny issues but does not cover parking perpendicularly in a Smart car. And until Smart car-specific legislation is drawn up, it seems drivers are safer erring on the side of caution, and parallel, rather than perpendicularly, parking their cars.