News analysis by T. Umaraliev (WASHINGTON TIMES/UNIVERSAL)
BISHKEK - Friday, August 17, 2012 -
Kazakhstan is gaining a reputation as having the world’s worst parkers after an infuriated driver began an online campaign to expose the most brazen violators of the country’s traffic laws.
“Like many others, I face the problem [of] bad parking every day,” says software programmer Roman Slegin, 29. “I used to work in a bank, where being late for work bore penalties, [including] salary cuts. Many times in the mornings, I couldn’t take my car out of the parking lot because of incorrectly parked cars.”
Slegin, who lives in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s most populous city, decided to snap photos of problem vehicles and create a web site (http://www.oselparking.kz) to showcase them.
The site’s popularity soon proved that he was far from alone in his exasperation with drivers who — as the photographic evidence on his site attests — treat Kazakhstan’s roads as if other vehicle owners and pedestrians don’t exist.
“It started as a joke-like project,” says Slegin. “But now we are getting so much feedback from ordinary people [as well as] non-governmental organizations. We now have more than a 1,000 registered users.”
Those users have posted more than 1,500 images on the web site — SUVs parked snugly in the middle of narrow streets or left on sidewalks, sedans blocking in three other parked cars, a stretch limousine jutting out across an entire lane of traffic.
Other vehicles appear abandoned in middle of the street, as if their owners suddenly tried of their cars or forgot how to drive.
And alongside the images are torrents of irate comments.
“If these [people] park anywhere, what is the point of having paved sidewalks and curbs — we may as well just walk in the roads,” posted one angry pedestrian.
Another posted a photo of abandoned car blocking the entrance to a park, with the comment: “Doesn’t have the strength, patience, or gas to get to the parking lot — but plenty of nerve.”
Online spats also have broken out in the comments section, with users labeling rival neighborhoods or cities as the worst offenders.
“I doubt drivers want to show up on a web site about people who park wrongly,” says Slegin. “And it works. We are already getting feedback from drivers saying that now they are more cautious when parking because they don’t want their cars photographed and put online.”
Slegin has enlisted two fellow crusaders against bad parking to help manage the site and patrol the streets for evidence to pass on to the police.
“Our service now has a feature designed only for police, who can log into the site with special permissions and see not only photos of cars but the exact time of the photo and address on the map where it was taken, so they can use them as proof in fining violators,” he says.
Several drivers have contacted the team to demand photos of their cars be taken down. Slegin says it is his policy to leave them online, but admits that it is not only drivers who are to blame for the haphazardly placed vehicles pictured on his site.
“Our project reflects the problem we have in many cities,” Slegin says. “It is not just drivers who are guilty violating parking rules. Many cities are not well equipped to meet parking needs. We hope that the government will pay more attention to this problem and start creating additional parking places.”
(This story was originally published by washingtontimes.com. It is republished here with permission)