St-Laurent bike shop owner challenges baffling parking signs

Montreal bike shop owner Howard Lee is taking his parking ticket to court, so a judge can decide if the parking signs posted near his shop are confusing and need to be clarified.

Borough mayor says motorists need lesson in sign reading

These parking signs posted outside Howard Lee's bike shop are the reason Lee is challenging his parking ticket in municipal court. (CBC)

A bike shop owner in the Montreal borough of St-Laurent has gone out of his way to get a parking ticket, so the courts can decide if the parking signs posted near his shop are confusing and need to be clarified.

From his service counter, Howard Lee says he looks out onto du Collège Street, and he can see a series of parking signs — and customers scratching their heads.

The signs seem to give motorists conflicting information about when they can and cannot park.

Howard Lee says he sees cars being ticketed outside his College St. bike shop several times a day. Their owners complain they didn't understand the signage.

"In other areas of Montreal where signs are conflicting, they've added maybe a notation in French … 'unless otherwise  prohibited.'" Lee said, noting that people have complained to the city for three years to no avail.

 "Everyday I observe numerous cars always getting ticketed," Lee says.

He recently decided enough was enough. He got a parking ticket deliberately and is challenging it in municipal court. 

St-Laurent mayor denies signs are baffling

St-Laurent Mayor Alan DeSousa admits when permit parking was introduced about four years ago, there was some confusion.

However, he insists motorists simply need to know how to interpret the signs.

"The simplicity of it is that you have to read two signs," DeSousa said. "You have to read the top signs to let you know at all times what applies, and then the bottom sign to see what leeway you have."

"Then you have to read those two signs together."

Few bother to fight back

The City of Montreal collects more than $60 million a year from parking tickets.

Many fed-up motorists blame unclear signs for their ticket, says lawyer Avi Levy — but few choose to fight.

"The problem is when you take half a day off of work to fight a ticket that's worth $52, sometimes you end up losing even if you win the case," Levy said.

However, Lee says his fight for better signage is a matter of principle and a battle for the health of his business, too.

"If I have a customer that comes here once, if they get a ticket, then they're not coming back here anymore," Lee said.

DeSousa says the city is willing to print out instructional pamphlets.

"If the cycling crowd is a crowd that needs a little bit of help to know where the best place for parking is, then I have no problem," the borough mayor said.

However, Lee said it's not just the "cycling crowd" that finds the signs confusing, and he's hoping a court ruling will clarify the matter.