Smaller no-stopping zones near fire hydrants could reduce parking headaches, say city officials

Fire chiefs and city engineers are pushing the province to reduce the length of the no-stopping areas near fire hydrants to make more room for parking.

Half of the current 5-metre limit 'would be more than adequate,' says Surrey fire chief

About 1,800 mid-block fire hydrants in Coquitlam could be reduced to gain more parking spaces, according to city staff. (CBC)

Metro Vancouver cities strapped for parking spaces might already have the room to make a dent in the problem — and the potential is marked with a lot of bright red posts.

Fire chiefs and city engineers are pushing the province to cut the length of no-parking zones on either side of fire hydrants in half, creating room for more cars. The change wouldn't apply to hydrants near intersections.

In Surrey, the difference could increase parking by 20 per cent which officials say would create hundreds street-side parking spots.

Half the size 'more than adequate': chief

B.C.'s required clearance of five metres is one of the longest in the country. In Ontario, drivers are only required to leave three metres of space. In some U.S. cities, it's only 1.5 metres — or five feet.

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis said fire crews needed the space clear to be sure they could spot hydrants from the fire truck, but that's not necessary with the latest equipment.

"Certainly with GPS now and all of the technology we have, I don't think it's as important," he said.

Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis said fire crews no longer need a large, clear space around hydrants because of GPS technology. In the past, they needed a clear line of sight. (CBC)

In fact, Garis said crews could work with half that space.

"From a functional, operational perspective the distance that we're suggesting ... 2.5 metres would be more than adequate," the chief said.

Another possible explanation for the lengthy no-go zones? Bad math.

"The last time it was substantially changed was when we converted from imperial to metric," Garis said. "Five feet turned into five metres."

Coquitlam's general manager of engineering Jozsef Dioszeghy said the city wants to bring the no-stopping zone around fire hydrants down to 2.5 metres. (CBC)

In Coquitlam — where more than 1,800 mid-block fire hydrants are eating up parking space — city staff are championing the idea of bringing the limit down by half.

"With housing affordability issues municipalities try to provide more housing options which are less expensive that includes secondary suites and coach houses and all of these come with additional demands for parking," said the city's engineering manager Jozsef Dioszeghy.

The Union of B.C. Municipalities would need to approve the new, lowered clearance because it would apply to communities provincewide. The proposal would then go to the Ministry of Transportation which could make the change under the Motor Vehicle Act.

On Monday, the ministry said it has no objection to the idea.