Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Firelane at Jewel-Osco

At the now not-so-new Jewel-Osco in Woodstock is a clearly marked Fire Lane along the curb in front of the store. (Well, not so clearly marked now, since the painted lane lines have faded.)

As soon as the store opened and parking violations began, I wondered why the Fire Lane was not being enforced, and I contacted the Woodstock Police Department to request enforcement. Over the next year I called several times, because drivers would park and stand in the Fire Lane while waiting for passengers to shop. Sometimes, drivers would even park their cars and leave them in the Fire Lane, while they went into the store to shop.

I understood the predicament in which Jewel-Osco would find itself, if a manager called the police to have a vehicle ticketed. Not so great customer relations, right? So why not just let the police handle it? There had been a Vehicular Control Agreement for the old Jewel store’s property. A V.C.A. is a legal agreement between a property owner and the local police department that allows the police to enforce traffic laws on its private property.

After a year of complaints to the Woodstock Police Department I learned that there was no V.C.A. for the new Jewel property. How nice it would have been for them to just tell me up-front that they were not able to enforce the laws because there was no V.C.A.

The next step was to suggest to the Police Department that a V.C.A. be established. After all, shouldn’t a Fire Lane be clear for emergency use? If a fire truck or ambulance is called to Jewel-Osco for an emergency, it needs a place to stop and park. Pretty simple. Not difficult to understand at all… Or is it?

I finally gave up after two more years of asking the Police Department to enter into a V.C.A. Apparently, there are two property owners. One agreed; the second refused, unless the City would pay for signs. So, for $100-200 in sign cost, shoppers and employees of the Jewel-Osco are placed at unnecessary risk in event of a fire, medical emergency, or some other event requiring emergency response.

Actually, it shouldn’t be the Police Department that contacts a property owner/manager about a V.C.A. The police are the enforcement end of things. Community Development or City Planning should have been the City’s contact with the property manager.

There are two parking zones of importance there. One is the Fire Lane. State law reads that there is be NO parking or standing in a Fire Lane. Nothing unclear about that. Even the Woodstock Fire/Rescue District vehicles park out in the parking lot, when firefighters and paramedics come to shop.

The other is the Loading Zone. This is for loading – putting groceries in your car. It is not for waiting or parking.

Have we become a nation of people who willfully disregard even the simplest rules? Why is it tolerated? Gee, it would be nice if there weren’t even any “rules” and people just used common sense.

What are your thoughts when you see a driver who has parked in the Fire Lane?

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