A recent fatality where a van driver, illegally driving on the sidewalk, reversed into an old lady waiting for a bus has brought into focus the extent to which regulations barring parking or driving on sidewalks in Tallinn are ignored, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reports.
Aivar Toompere, head of the Tallinn Municipal Police (a separate entity from the national Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), and more commonly known by its acronym Mupo) told AK that: "We get a massive number of phone calls coming in where people are notifying us that the sidewalk is either being parked on or driven on," adding that there are many more cases which go unreported.
"When traversing the streets, you actually observe many traffic law violations," he went on.
The situation is such that even private individuals have started approaching miscreants, with mixed results. One of these, Andrei Lobanov, told AK has been on his own sidewalk patrol for over three years, adding that: "If I talk to [violators] without using a camera…well, they tend to speak using terms that a decent person wouldn't do."
If Lobanov does have a camera with him to film the incident: "There are two different categories of people: One, where they try to snatch the camera out of my hands, and the other is much more polite and you can actually reason with them," he went on.
Aivar Toompere added that the city center area sees, perhaps unsurprisingly, the largest number of warnings and fines being issued, though Tallinn's "sleeping district" - residential areas dominated by Soviet-era builds, including Lasnamäe and Õismäe – also predominate.
AK reported that the law permits stopping or parking on a sidewalk only where traffic signage expressly permits it, and even then, a one-and-a-half-meter space must be left for pedestrians to get through.
Nonetheless, the rules are not followed very strictly, particularly with regard to the "I'll only be five minutes" mentality exhibited by those in the process of making deliveries.
AK saw for itself this phenomenon in action in a typical day in central Tallinn, with several cars parked on sidewalks within a small area.
On being asked why they were parking illegally on a sidewalk, a driver of one of two vans with the livery of international elevator supplier Otis (pictured) told AK's Iida-Mai Einmaa that "I'm working," though they also said they were aware of the regulations.
The practice could also potentially delay an emergency call getting through, given that last year, an average of at least one call per day on sidewalk parking violations was made to 112, the emergency number.
Mupo in Tallinn wrote up over 30,000 fines, over that time period, AK reported.
This fine is not substantial €20, or higher in the Old Town (many of whose streets are closed to general road traffic in any case).
Mupo has appealed to raise fines and improve monitoring, but to no avail, so far, Aivar Toompere noted.
Indeed, many drivers just write-in the cost of a fine into their overall driving costs.
"Just as some drivers will openly said that if they want to get to Tartu five minutes earlier, then when starting in Tallinn, they immediately factor in speed camera fines into their overall expenses, just to get that five-minute win," he said.
"It is actually the same situation here in Tallinn with these parking issues; these warning fines remain lower than actual parking fines," he said, referring in the latter case to private sector traffic warden firms fining the drivers of vehicles which are parked in permissible locations, but without a valid ticket.
Andrei Lobanov suggested New York-level fines which are, so far as he could recall, around US€125 dollars for sidewalk infringements.
"I put this to Mupo, but their boss said, well, why bother, we already have citizens informing us, free of charge," Lobanov went on.
"The only thing that can halep is a change in human mentality. Every person must understand that behavior like this is dangerous."
To underscore this, AK noted that an elderly woman was killed last week by a van reversing on the sidewalk.
Daily Postimees (link in Estonian) reported that the accident occurred on Punane tänav in the Lasnamäe district of Tallinn, at lunchtime last Monday, March 20.
The woman, 76, had been waiting at a bus stop when a van driver, a 32-year-old male, reversed into the victim in an area where driving as noted is prohibited, and without checking that it was safe to maneuver.
Criminal proceedings have been initiated the PPA says.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel
Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'