A disabled Canberra rider could face a $228 fine for copying his disabled parking permit and making his own holder to use on his Harley because no suitably secure system is available for motorcycles.
Alan Francis, 68, says the ACT Transportation Department only supplies a flimsy plastic sleeve with the permit which would not be secure on a motorcycle.
“That’s discrimination of disabled riders,” he says.
The situation came to light recently when Alan received a $600 ticket for parking his 2015 Harley-Davidson Low Rider in a Canberra Hospital disabled park while he visited a terminally ill friend.
He says an eyewitness told him the inspector said handicapped stickers are for those who can’t walk any distance and if the owner could ride a Harley he was a “fraud”.
The former firefighter and New Zealand sidecar champion says he suffers from a compressed spine and dead nerves in his legs which makes walking any distance painful and difficult.
“My feet are basically useless, but the Low Rider has forward controls and I can lift my leg to change gears,” he says.
“If I don’t have sturdy boots on, I am susceptible to falling over.
“And when I go for a ride with my mates they usually stand by the gutter and offer a shoulder so I can get on and off.
“But the moment I lift my feet of the ground I’m as good as the next guy on a motorcycle.”
Parking permits are supplied to people for a range of disabilities including those whose “physical condition is detrimentally affected by walking 100m”.
Friend and Motorcycle Riders Association of the ACT president Lorne Thurgar confirms that Alan has a genuine ACT Government issued handicap pass and walks with a walking stick.
“The ticket should be cancelled and Alan deserves an apology,” Lone says.
The ACT disabled parking permit instructions say: “The Australian disability parking permit is correctly displayed if it is on the dashboard, or affixed to the windscreen, inside the vehicle or as close as practical to the front left side in a way that all permit details are clearly visible from outside the vehicle.”
The instructions make no allowances for motorcycles or for easily relocating a permit from the safety of a car’s interior to the vulnerability of a motorcycle.
So Alan photocopied the disabled permit, laminated it inside the supplied plastic holder and cable-tied it to his left saddlebag.
In 2016, a Canberra paraplegic driver was fined $228 for failing to display her ACT permit correctly.
“There is no holder to be able to do this with a motorcycle and they cannot provide one as I asked when I was given the permit,” Alan says.
“I have a car as well and carry my wheelchair in the car so I need my sticker in the car.
“For me to be legal on both vehicles and has been stated by them is that I have to remove the sticker from the car and firmly attach it to the bike in the yet-to-be-designed holder that meets their requirements.”
Alan says if the department can’t supply a secure holder for the permit, they should supply a second motorcycle-only permit for disabled riders.
“I am now in the knowledge that my solution is illegal and I must be severely punished for it,” he says.
“Further to my situation is that I have received comment, but not from the department, that maybe I can’t be a pension-reliant person if I can afford a Harley.
“I don’t normally publicise this but the bike was a gift from my partner who has now passed away.”
As for the parking ticket, Alan says that when he parked in the disabled spot closest to the hospital elevators, he waved over a young female traffic controller to explain his situation.
“I told her ‘just out of courtesy I’m showing you that I am handicapped and legitimate’,” he says.
“About 50 minutes after parking there, the traffic inspector employed by the hospital started ticketing my motorcycle.
“The young girl came running over to him close to tears to explain that I’m an ok bloke and genuinely disabled, but she couldn’t stop him putting a ticket on it.
“Quite frankly what the parking inspector said to her about me being a fraud was soul destroying.”
Onerous appeal process
Alan says it was also a huge inconvenience to have to walk a long distance to Access Canberra (sic) to lodge his appeal against the ticket.
“The girl at the office looked up the sticker and told me it was legal and legit, but I would have to wait to find out if the ticket was rescinded.
“I’m speaking on behalf of disabled people; it’s straight out discrimination against disability.
“He’s shagged me round good and proper.”
Meanwhile, Alan says that he has now laminated the original permit in its plastic holder and cable-tied to the left pannier as it was when he was fined.
“I have chosen not to use a handicapped park for the car as at least I have the wheelchair to get me the further distances,” he says.
“My permit is again cable tied to the saddlebag which is still open to coping a fine I guess if a particular parking attendant randomly decides I am a fraud.
“Had I been informed on the infringement notice that it was the permit and not the parking position that was the problem, this situation would have never transpired.
“I freely admit in hindsight that my solution was not appropriate and if I am to be fined it should be for this and not the parking position.”
We received this response from the ACT government’s media team:
Access Canberra does not publicly comment on individual parking issues through the media, in respect for the privacy of the individual.
However we can advise that we are looking to have this matter be resolved as soon as possible.
We can also advise that contact has been made with the individual and the reasons why the infringement was issued explained.
The individual should be hearing the outcome of the review in the near future.
Depending on the complexity of a review it may take a bit longer, however the majority are processed within six weeks.
We’d also like to provide a reminder to the community that Australian Disability Parking Permits (also known as Mobility Parking Permits) are valid for use by the person to whom they are issued and to no other.
Like with any form of identification such as a driver’s licence, an Australian Disability Parking Permit holder must display the actual permit issued by the Road Transport Authority on the motor vehicle used at the time for their transportation or for their parking requirements.
When it comes to motorbikes, it is important that the permits are securely displayed.