8 July 2015

Helen Michael silenced (not for long)

That pesky cafe owner, Helen Michael, of Cafe Buzz who has been vocal on the subject of the removal of cash parking meters, as they adversely affected her business, is still on the warpath. This time it is about traffic wardens being over zealous and giving out PCN like confetti on a suspended 15m stretch of parking bay opposite Cafe Buzz as it makes customers and potential customers nervous to even visit North Finchley. Helen's view is that traffic wardens were targeting the spot, which was ambiguously signed, just to raise revenue as she saw wardens down there on foot at 8pm when usually it is only the scooter riders passing by who stop and dole out PCN.

So, fed up with seeing traffic wardens take photographs and driving away her trade, Helen tweeted a picture of a traffic warden at work, like this one

You won't get such lovely food as at Helen's, in the above establishments
with the small difference that Helen left the traffic warden's face visible.

This led someone, whether the traffic warden, NSL or Barnet Council isn't known, to complain about Helen having breached twitter policy, or some such, and for now, until she sorts it out, Helen's account is suspended. Here is some legal advice I was given for free:

The general rule for street photography is that if you are taking a picture of a street scene, which happens to have lots of people in it, that is fine.

If you are taking a portrait of a particular person, as in this case, then you need them to sign a consent form.

Mr Mustard thinks it must be the traffic warden who complained as she is now, according to other local business owners (most of whom are very grateful to Helen and support her efforts to get the council to be sensible) going around making uninvited improper remarks about Helen to other business owners such as referring to her as "a bitch" and telling them (at least 3, statements are being written as we speak) she is "a horrible person" (she isn't; she is lovely) unless of course the definition of a horrible person is someone who prevents people from getting PCN in which case Mr Mustard will have to be renamed Mr Horrible.

The problem with the enforcement last week outside the premises of Tally Ho Discount (soon to be Tesco) is that the 15m stretch which was suspended was described as being outside 770-774. Now Tally Ho is number 770 and is about 13m wide so that left only an adjoining 2m elsewhere which was suspended. The other buildings are not numbered and so without making further enquiry, which should have been unnecessary, motorists didn't know if the other 2m were to the left or right of Tally Ho. Traffic wardens didn't care, they simply ticketed any vehicle outside any part of McDonald's and blithely told motorists that they could appeal (Mr Mustard doesn't expect to be summonsed for an offence that he hasn't committed, such as say burglary when his swag bag is clearly empty and be told that it's fine, you can appeal). Mr Mustard politely asked a different traffic warden how motorists could know where the 15m stretch started and ended and her answer was that it wasn't her job to put the signs up and that motorists could always appeal. She couldn't answer therefore how she decided whether to ticket or not (the answer of course is always to issue a ticket, to the innocent as well as the guilty). Mr Mustard hung around for a while to stop people getting tickets. He moved a fellow motorcyclist along 5m to be out of danger. The rider spoke to the traffic warden who told the rider not to listen to Mr Mustard (she clearly not knowing of his knowledge on the subject in hand). Mr Mustard doesn't think it is in the job description of traffic wardens to instruct the public to not have expert help in contesting PCN; they might just be an incy wincy bit biased?

Mr Mustard talks to most of the traffic wardens he meets (some though don't seem to have a tongue in their head and stupidly give residents the silent treatment which is enraging) and they are happy to explain anything he asks. Others just walk away. This is what the contract with NSL requires (try hard not to laugh so much that your feet fall off)

The atmosphere where traffic wardens are seen as Ambassadors for the council seems to Mr Mustard (and we are 3 years into this contract) to be like this

or maybe it was an auto-correct error and Ambushers was the word that was meant to be included in the contract?

It might be a good idea if parking management were to move the slandering traffic warden to another location well away from N12 and took a long hard look at how traffic wardens behave on the street by following them around and checking first hand what antics they get up to.

Do feel free to send your traffic warden stories to mrmustard@zoho.com or to the local Times newspaper

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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