A few weeks ago I received a parking ticket in the mail (I’ve waited that long to report it so I could properly cool down and not sound vexed). On the ticket was a photograph of my Niva, license plate concealed, parallel-parked a good distance, I would say 50 feet, away from the Tumanyan/Nalbandyan intersection, but parked on the south side on Tumanyan Street.
It was late one Saturday morning in June when I needed to pop into the Star supermarket on the corner to use the ATM. My stay there lasted two minutes at the most before I was off to pick up my father-in-law and the marinated meat, then the rest of the clan. We were on our way to his dacha in Dzorakhpur for barbecue on the occasion of his birthday. I had parked in that very spot before and was never notified after the fact that I had committed a “violation.” That was before all these peeping Tom cameras were installed throughout central Yerevan.
Needless to say I was quite annoyed. Not only is there a no parking sign on the sidewalk, three cars are always rest curbside, as you can see in the photo, most of them being taxis or delivery trucks, or likely people on short errands. Only recently was a solid line painted in the middle of the right side of the street, starting from the stop line at the intersection and running 50 feet away from it, to indicate two separate lanes. The argument is that since that zone now technically constitutes a lane, drivers are forced to cross that solid line where cars are parked to continue on their way, which of course is not permitted, so there is a double violation. There was even a secure hyperlink printed on the notice, complete with a user name and password, where I could see a short video online of drivers struggling to maneuver around my car (not really).
So several factors exist here, all comprising a not-so-elaborate plan to make money. It took me a few days to work it all out, granted, but it doesn’t take a genius. First, as I stated above, there is no sign or painted lines for that matter indicating that the spot is a no-parking zone. Apparently motorists are simply expected to know about the illegality, as it should be obvious according to the explanation given over the phone. Second, it isn’t necessary to have two lanes there since there is no left turn onto Nalbandyan Street for some strange reason since it’s been a two-way thoroughfare for over a year now to address traffic issues. I suppose the logic is to have a separate lane for cars turning right, but the traffic is never heavy on that part of Tumanyan Street anyway. Third, the fine is 5,000 dram, about $13. A camera is perched on the pole aimed directly on that zone. The only ways to contest the violation is to either go to court, or make a stop at the traffic police station and have a chat with one of the chiefs responsible for recording such infringements of the law, which of course would only balloon into a full-blown argument peppered with fiery insults, pledges to take the pain away and swearing on the life of one’s own father or mother. And for only 5000 dram, no one is going to bother to waste the time to do either during a workday.
I wrote a letter explaining my case, which was never read because there is no postal or e-mail address given on the violation notice where complaints can be received. I am printing it here:
“I would like to first state that I did not intend to break the law. I was not aware that parking in that location was forbidden as there is no sign on the street sidewalk indicating as such.
Furthermore, the enclosed photo of my vehicle does not necessarily prove that I am violating a law since there is no sign posted on the sidewalk that informs motorists that they are about to violate the law. There is no visible way of knowing that a violation is being committed.
See the attached photo dated 6 August 2013, showing three vehicles parked in the exact same location. Note that there was still no sign posted.
In your letter you cite a violation of a section of an article of a law that is not readily available to read. The article was not cited in full, and there is no direct Internet link printed pointing to the article. As you well know, people are not in practice to dedicate the time to study all rules and regulations regarding traffic laws on a regular basis, assuming they even have access to them in print form.
It is clear that the Armenian Traffic Police is trying to modernize its method of enforcing traffic laws with cameras installed in strategic parts of Yerevan. Along with the cameras (the use of which are a clear invasion of privacy and are thereby unconstitutional according to Articles 23 and 33.2 of the Armenian Constitution) there must also be signage on the streets that clearly indicate where parking is not allowed.”
Essentially the violation zone was designed to reap easy cash. They’ve made things convenient for parking scoundrels by installing automated payment machines in stores across the city that function the same way as ATMs do. You can pay utility fees and buy minutes for your pay-and-go mobile phone plans as well. The coveted chess culture really comes in handy when developing strategies aimed at screwing Armenian citizens so nicely.
Rumor has it that Sashik Sargsyan, who is the notorious gangster brother of President Serge Sargsyan, sold these monitoring systems to the government, and I bet he fetched a more than fair price for them. He owns a second-floor apartment on the block between Tumanyan and Hanrapetutyan Streets, making that “territory” his own. If you look closely on the poles and the pink tuff stone paneled sides of buildings there you will notice an unusually high number of cameras affixed, most of which are pointing at his apartment building from various angles. So it seems the cameras serve a dual purpose–recording the dastardly deeds of motorists while making sure Sashik’s home is safe and secure. And of course, at the expense of public privacy and basic human rights.