IT is not often a street sign really turns my head. Less still when it’s written in another language, but in France there’s a beauty we should be copying.
It’s a simple sign that says "Si vous prenez ma place, prenez aussi mon handicap" and you find it next to disabled parking bays.
It means "if you take my parking place, also take my handicap". Its purpose is simple - to shame the motorist who is bone-headed enough to use a disabled parking space when he’s not entitled to.
Nothing says "I’m selfish, self-centred, full of myself and utterly self-absorbed" more than taking up a disabled bay when you’ve no right to use it. And it happens all the time. In fact, I fear it’s getting worse.
Let’s start with the basics. People who have serious mobility issues and who struggle to get around can apply for a blue badge. It means they can park in spaces reserved specifically for blue badge holders, which are normally bigger and easily accessible.
They’re not hard to spot, due to the familiar sign of a wheelchair-user and the fact they often have the word DISABLED painted on the road. They serve a purpose.
If you know anyone with a physical disability, or any medical condition that restricts mobility, you’ll be sympathetic.
You’ll know how hard it can be to move from one place to another, or to get a wheelchair out of a vehicle.
You won’t, not even for a millisecond, think to yourself "this blue badge business is a bit of a laugh". It isn’t.
Like every disability benefit in this country, it takes a painful amount of time and effort to apply for and if you’ve got one, then you deserve it.
You deserve to have that extra layer of support from having a well-positioned space for your use. You deserve not to have some wally park his car in your space just because it’s a bit nearer the squash court.
I think people tend to imagine disabled bays don’t count outside of office hours, or when the traffic is a bit busy.
It astonishes me anybody could imagine that it’s all right to steal a disabled space in the evening, as if people with disabilities don’t go out after dark.
And don’t tell me you didn’t see the signs, because I don’t believe you. Of course then there’s the "I’m only popping in to the dry cleaners" excuse, the ones parking wardens love to ignore.
But you’ve got the benefit of mobility, of not needing assistance, so either park a bit further away and use those legs, or come back another time.
That’s what I do, and that’s what just about everyone does. We don’t abuse the system.
School. Even schools! How can a parent do that - use a space set aside for a child, or perhaps a parent, who has a disability. Not only is it selfish, but just think of the example it sets to youngsters, not just about ignoring this particular rule, but about that general air of arrogance.
You’re saying to your children they don’t have to follow the same regulations as everyone else, so don’t be surprised when they steal a car or set up a cannabis farm in the back garden.
If you parked in that space, you’re the one who asked for trouble, just as surely as the 60-a-day smoker who puffs away at home is setting his own children up for an early death.
People do come up with excuses, of course. I’m told the most familiar one is there are too many disabled bays, and they’re never full. Except, presumably, for the times when they are full.
But even so, the point is they are supposed to be available at all times to assist people who need some help.
They don’t have priority over these spaces - they have exclusive access. Really, though, that is the best excuse, and it’s rubbish.
Next in line is "I’d be happy to move", which assumes the person who needs the space - the person with restricted mobility - is happy to jog over to your car, dodging passing traffic, have a chat with you and wait while you find somewhere else to park.
Then we have the "I’m only here for a minute" nonsense, which really remains beneath contempt. No, there is no excuse.
Millionaire footballer John Terry parked his Bentley in a disabled spot once and went off for lunch, which I think tells you everything about the sort of person he was in his 20s. I’d like to think he wouldn’t do that now.
Oh, and by the way - it goes the same for parent and child spaces. I know the name’s confusing, but they’re designed to be used for parents with small children.
Not any old children, but small ones - babies who are demanding and cry, and need gentle handling.
If you go to the supermarket with your 15-year-old son in tow, you don’t count.
This isn’t about the law. It’s about respect for others and a certain amount of self-respect.
It’s about doing the right thing for the rest of society, but it’s also about trying not to be an obnoxious so-and-so.
You’d have to be pretty thick not to realise you’re doing the wrong thing, but maybe there are a few who need to be educated.
So what I do now is look at those people who are sitting in their cars, using that space, and I try to catch their eye. I don’t talk to them, certainly don’t threaten them, but I do like to let a bit of non-verbal communication kick in.
Others have posted photos on social media and the website disabledmotoring.org is just about to launch a big survey - brilliantly, it’s called Baywatch - to find out how widespread this behaviour is.
Good luck to them, but I find a stare and a shake of the head can work wonders.
So if this is you, if you’re the one who ignores the signs and common sense, then take heed.
I do a mean stare and a wildly condescending head-shake when I’m in the mood.