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Can you be ticketed for parking the wrong way on a two-way street?

Janice Pinto/The Globe and Mail

When I lived in Hamilton, Ont., it was common to park facing traffic (on the left) on a two-way street. I’ve seen it in other places in Ontario as well. However, when I moved to British Columbia (and later, to Quebec), I was told that this is illegal. I see no safety problem with it as the car is not moving. It’s done all over the UK without causing any problems. What is the final word for Canadians on this practical and time-saving way of parking? – Anthony, Montreal

There’s no right to park facing the wrong way in Hamilton or much of Canada. But you might not actually get a ticket unless somebody reports you.

Section 12.2 of Hamilton’s street-parking bylaw says you must park “on the right side of the roadway having regard to the direction in which the vehicle was travelling and with its right front and rear wheels parallel to and not more than thirty centimetres away from the curb.”

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Parking on the left side of a two-way street comes with a $33 fine.

“These particular infractions would only be enforced on a proactive basis given the roadway had a visible painted centre line dividing the roadway,” said City of Hamilton spokesperson Marie Fitzpatrick in an e-mail. “If no line was visible, we would have to wait for a complaint to be launched in order to enforce.”

So how many people actually get tickets? The numbers for 2017 weren’t readily available, Fitzpatrick said.

“The reason for enforcement is generally of a safety concern where a motorist is not having to check and recheck to see if they are clear to enter into the lane of travelled traffic,” Fitzpatrick said.

In 2013, the city looked into axing the wrong-way parking rule on streets without centre lines and decided against it. The year before, Hamilton police gave out 1,771 tickets and collected roughly $46,000 in fines.

In the five years before the Hamilton decision, only one crash there had been officially determined to have been caused by parking the wrong way.

“Changing the [bylaw] to legalize wrong-way parking on local residential streets would not contradict the Highway Traffic Act, and the potential for traffic safety problems is minimal, as volumes and travelling speeds are lower on these streets,” a 2013 city report said.

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So why did they decide against legalization? It would have cost too much (the report didn’t say how much) to move street signs to a 90-degree angle so they could be seen in both directions.

The report also found that other Ontario cities actively looked for wrong-way parkers – and slapped them with tickets – instead of just waiting for someone to tattle on them.

Banned locally?

So what about the rest of Canada? Chances are you can’t legally park on the left on a two-way street due to local bylaws, provincial rules or both.

We checked with police in other cities, including Vancouver ($105 fine for breaking a city bylaw and a $40 fine for breaking Section 190 of B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act), Calgary ($68 fine for breaking a city bylaw), Toronto ($30 fine for breaking a city bylaw), Montreal ($107 fine for breaking Article 383 of Quebec’s Highway Safety Code – plus some boroughs have their own bylaws) and Halifax (fines range from $136.60 to $436.60 for breaking Sections 112 and 156 of Nova Scotia’s Motor Vehicle Act).

But how many tickets do cops actually give out? We only got numbers from Halifax (two in 2017) and Montreal (1,671 in 2017).

Why’s it banned? If you’re parked on the left side, you’re directly next to the curb. That makes it harder to see who’s coming – especially if you’re squeezed in between two vehicles.

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“[It’s] more dangerous when pulling away from the curb as it would be more difficult to see vehicles and cyclists coming up from behind,” said Ian Law, president and chief instructor of ILR Car Control School, in an e-mail. “It would be safer egressing the vehicle since you don’t have to step out into a live lane, but for everyone else, it would be risky.”

Parking facing the wrong way is allowed in the UK – but only in the daytime.

Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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