Going anywhere with a baby or small child can feel like a challenge, between loading and unloading prams/buggies, changing bags, coats and blankets, one often feels quite accomplished if they succeed at such an activity and manage to avert any crisis.
Under Irish law, there is no legal requirement for local authorities or commercial businesses to provide parent or child car parking spaces. Despite the lack of enforceable law in this area, many supermarkets such as Supervalu and ALDI chose to make it their priority to provide these facilities. It has been agreed that the minimum dimensions required for a parent and child parking space is 3.6m wide by 4.8m in length – this is the amount of space generally regarded as required in order to safely and comfortably maneuver a child and or children, in and out of a parked car in Ireland. The availability of such parking spaces not only clearly creates a safer shopping environment for parents/guardians and their children, but it is probably that it also entices them to shop or attend the premises. It’s a win, win!
While it would appear that supermarkets and businesses are quite good at providing parent and child parking spaces on their premises, it is certainly arguable that there is a lack of such spaces in towns throughout rural Ireland. This means that many parents/guardians are forced to park in tight spaces which are not designed for getting small children and their necessary equipment in and out of a vehicle. This is potentially quite dangerous as dealing with small children can be unpredictable and challenging as it is, but doing so in a confined space in a built up area can bring with it, its own hazards.
While having small children in toe and having a disability are not to be seen as alike under any circumstances, the laws regarding the necessity to provide parking spaces for both are the same – non-existent. Just as there is no legal requirement for the creation of parent and child parking spaces, there is similarly no onus placed on bodies or establishments to provide parking spaces for those with a disability. However, when driving through most rural towns, it is a fair observation that parking spaces specifically allocated to those who have a disability can be clearly identified. Not only are these parking spaces readily available in most towns, there is a maximum penalty of a €3000 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment, imposed on those found to be using the parking space without a valid European Parking Card. Where clamping is in place, those who misuse a space designed for individuals with a disability will be clamped and in return will be required to pay at least €80 for the release of the clamp. This is a fair system which allows those who need the parking space to be protected and one which deters those who do not require it, from misusing it. The same however, cannot be said for the system in place regarding parent and child parking, where it would appear that there is no punishment imposed or deterrent provided to those who park in a parent and child space without actually having a child with them.
Irish mother Niamh O’Reilly recently started a petition via Change.org, calling for retailers to enforce their car park rules and to enforce punishment for the misuse of parent and child parking. O’Reilly states that these parking spaces are not just a “mere convenience” for parents and guardians, but “a necessity when getting a small child or children in and out of car seats, as well as prams, changing bags and of course shopping.” This argument could potentially be extended to local authorities who have the power to provide parent and child parking spaces in various locations.
So what do you think? Should local authorities be required to provide more parent and child parking spaces in towns across rural Ireland? Have your say below by voting on our poll.