With the busiest period of the year on the Costa del Sol now behind us, drivers will have noticed some traffic relief this September. In the summer months the population of some resorts triples as tourists flood in. Of course this has an immediate impact on the roads, the beaches and popular tourist areas, so driving or finding somewhere to park can become a real ordeal.
Areas near beaches are the most affected by illegal parking, and the lack of spaces is the aspect most criticised by visitors to the province, according to market research by the Costa del Sol tourist board.
The first consequence of the lack of parking spaces is that other traffic is held up while drivers crawl along looking for one, and the second is that those who lose patience and park illegally are often fined.
The police in some towns, however, say they try to seek a balance and not fine people unnecessarily.
"You can't fine 500 vehicles in one afternoon, so we mostly focus on those who are blocking traffic flow," said one officer from Marbella. Even so, in July, 2,115 parking fines were issued in the town, compared with the average of 1,200 a month in low season.
No room to park
If every bit of ground near a beach in Marbella is already covered with cars, some people use their ingenuity to find somewhere to park, even if it means leaving their vehicle on a yellow line. People with a car full of children and picnic gear don't want to have to walk far. However, Marbella is not unique in this regard. The same scene is repeated all along the coast.
Spaces which are reserved for loading and unloading are often taken up by tourists who don't realise, or don't care, that they should be kept free at certain times of day.
This is also one of the most common reasons for fines in Fuengirola. Of the 26,271 traffic fines issued there last year, 3,708 were for parking in loading bays (1,533 of them in the summer), and 2,301 for double parking (of which 1,243 were in the summer). Altogether, from May to mid-September, 12,196 fines were issued, which was 46.4 per cent of the total for the year.
In neighbouring Benalmádena, 70 per cent of traffic fines are for double parking or bad parking, and once again the number increased in the summer months. In August last year 913 drivers were fined, compared with the normal average of 400.
In La Axarquía the greatest parking problems in the summer tend to occur in the bigger resorts, especially Torre del Mar, Rincón de la Victoria and Nerja.
The worst area in Rincón de la Victoria is the old N-340 highway, where Local Police officers patrolled continually to prevent people double parking and parking in delivery bays. According to the town hall, the number of fines issued this summer has been "in line" with previous years, but they didn't provide any figures.
In Nerja the worst problems once again this summer were in streets in the town centre, especially in terms of double parking and parking in loading bays. Some visitors who were fined complained that they had no choice but to leave their cars there, because the areas assigned for parking were "dusty" and had not been properly surfaced.
Meanwhile Torrox, as well as creating temporary car parks on waste ground this summer, continued with its innovative idea of creating special blue zone parking along the coast. The system, which was welcomed by local business owners, aims to stop people parking in the same space for long periods. Drivers have to buy a cardboard disc for one euro, which is valid indefinitely, and display it showing the time they parked. They are allowed a maximum of two hours, and if they exceed that time, they can be fined.