There are a few things residents will soon be able to count on not seeing after a snowstorm in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
One of these might be their vehicle if it was parked on the side of the road.
“If there’s a vehicle obstructing snow removal, our officers are directed to immediately have that vehicle towed,” says Staff Sgt. Gil Boone of the Cape Breton Regional Police Service.
“The obstruction continues every year and it’s not getting any better,” he said. “We’re very strong on our enforcement now.”
Since winter parking regulations went into effect on Dec. 15, the CBRPS has dealt with 77 instances of illegally parked vehicles in conjunction with complaints from citizens, plow operators and officers on patrol. Officers issued 36 tickets and had 11 vehicles in direct obstruction of in-progress snow removal towed.
Winter parking regulations are in effect in the CBRM from Dec. 15 until March 31. Street parking is prohibited between 1 a.m.-6 a.m. or during snowfall and within two hours from the time snow stops falling.
Police will ticket and tow any vehicles obstructing snow removal efforts, leaving offending motorists with a fine and towing costs.
The fine for illegal winter parking under the Motor Vehicle Act is $25 and, if the vehicle is towed, the owner is also responsible for those costs.
Officials with Kevin’s Towing — which has the CBRM’s police tow contract — says the cost for a parking ban tow would be $40 and $20 for each day of storage.
Boone said the plow operator will report any vehicles obstructing their efforts, while at the same time officers patrol for illegally parked vehicles. Residents also often report vehicles that are illegally parked.
Boone said there’s not one specific problem area, but the problem ranges from East Division right across the entire CBRM, although the most significant issues have been in the Sydney area.
When vehicles are parked on a street, Boone said often the plow operator can simply decide not to plow that street.
In the past, sometimes a police officer would go to a resident’s door and ask them to move the vehicle in the way of the plow. However, often after the officer would leave, the resident would then put their vehicle back where it was previously. In the meantime, while the vehicle is being moved in the first place, the entire plow operation is held up. Boone said this creates tie-ups.
“That’s not happening, guaranteed,” he said. “We don’t have time for that, the operators don’t have time for that. That’s not going to be the practice. If it started to snow and (the vehicle) would cause an obstruction, we’ll tow it.”
Major concerns in a storm also include if they needed to get police, fire and ambulance down a road and what would happen if vehicles were obstructing the street.
“Obstruction could mean a tie-up and life or death for someone,” he said. “We can’t allow that to happen. It’s to the benefit of the community to ensure safety is looked after.”
There are also significant problems with streets which are narrow, one-way or have dead ends, as there’s nowhere for the plow operator to get around.
Police are keeping their ticket books handy and tow operators on speed dial. Three winter storms hit Cape Breton within a week and a fourth is scheduled for Thursday.
Saltwire Network’s resident meteorologist Cindy Day’s Weather by Day report on Tuesday forecast a powerful storm of developing snow with 10-15 cm for Cape Breton — the heaviest expected between 2-9 p.m. — along with powerful wind gusts of 80-100 km/hr, rising to as high as 130 km/hr in the evening.
John Phalen, manager of CBRM public works, Central Division, said If vehicles are impeding their plowing, the plow operator will contact the supervisor, who in turn will notify dispatch to have the vehicle removed.
Residents not adhering to winter parking regulations have always been a problem but it started out as a major issue this year. When their plow operators see vehicles parked on a road during a storm the operator usually has to skip the street for safety reasons. Phalen said that creates a "real clink" in their operations.
As well, some vehicles parked illegally end up buried by snow and have been struck by the plow, a dangerous situation for the plow operator.
“The visibility can be difficult in a snowstorm,” he said. “If there’s a car parked there sometimes they will simply skip the street while waiting for the vehicle to be removed. It’s not safe for the operators.”
The worst areas are in Sydney, including its north end, Prince Street, Hardwood Hill, Pitt Street and all of the downtown area.
Phalen said the problem was bad last year but this year has been worse than ever. Police have stepped up and are combating the problem.
“The police are hauling cars away, which is what we want,” he said. “ People are realizing they can’t bluff their way out of it — they are seeing vehicles are being towed, which is helping.”
Phalen said that’s the message they want to get out there.
“If you park on the street during the hours of the ban, you’re going to get towed.”
Phalen said sometimes in the past an officer would go look for the vehicle’s owner but that’s not happening anymore.
“When they actually call the tow truck and tow it away, that has a lot more effect.”
People are also reminded not to put snow from their driveways on the sidewalk or roadway. Phalen said that’s another major problem.
“We have a lot of issues with that,” he said. “It’s slowing down our equipment.”
The most common areas where this takes place are in commercial areas with parking lots, such as Welton Street or in the McKeen Street area of Glace Bay,
“There’s places people are plowing parking lots and just putting it right on the sidewalks,” he said. “If people won’t comply we’ll get the police involved.”
It’s the responsibility of anyone hiring a contractor to find out where they intend to pile the snow. Obstructing streets and sidewalks with snow is prohibited under the CBRM traffic bylaws and the Nova Scotia Highways Act and can result in a $100 fine.