Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cambridge Traffic and Parking

Re: Violation No. 13583558-2

Dear Sir/Madam:

I have received notice of the Office of the Parking Clerk's summary conclusion that the above numbered ticket "cannot be dismissed for the reasons stated in [my] correspondence." No further explanation is given on the form notice, notwithstanding my expense of considerable time and effort explaining — and proving, with documentary evidence — that the vehicle in question is a moped, and that it was therefore lawfully parked on the sidewalk.

Since I sent my letter of October 9 contesting the ticket, I have personally spoken with a Cambridge parking official who affirmed to me that parking a moped on the sidewalk is an entirely appropriate and lawful act in the City of Cambridge. I believe that under the circumstances I am entitled to something more than a single, unelaborated sentence that says, "you lose."

For that matter, I also find it sorely troubling that I am now to be charged an additional $5.00 on top of the original $35.00 penalty, apparently because I availed myself of my legal entitlement to challenge this ticket. I had no idea I would be subject to this $5.00 "surcharge" — nor does the City's notice to me explain why I suddenly owe it $40.00, rather than the original $35.00.

The facts of my case are straightforward: my vehicle meets the statutory definition of a motorized bicycle. Nothing in that definition excludes a vehicle that is insured or that bears a license plate. I was entitled to park it on the sidewalk. The ticket does not, to borrow your words, "conform to parking rules and regulations" any more than it would if it had been affixed to a ten-speed bicycle.

I must, however, admit defeat. I could appeal the City's empty determination, but I can't be troubled to take the time off work; last time I took time off to appeal a traffic ticket, I received much the same summary "Clerk's Justice" as I complain of today. After spending much of the morning waiting for my number to come up, the clerk announced, without any explanation why, that my appeal was denied. He then told me I was entitled to come back at a later date and present my case before a bona fide magistrate. My case here seems to have followed the same troubling pattern. I am convinced that the City has settled upon a strategy that technically affords its residents due process, but it makes it such a bother — with so many levels of appeal required before anyone with any capacity for judgment actually decides a matter like this on its merits — that it's a thousand times easier just to suck it up and pay the ticket.

So today I find myself wrestled to the ground. You win. Not because you are wise or correct in your judgments, but because you represent the power of the state, and you hide so skillfully behind your form letters. Enjoy this triumph, dear judgmentless Clerk, and don't spend my $40 all in one place.



Cc: E. Denise Simmons, City Councilor