Q I read your article about speeding tickets in Europe, so I would like to share my experience in London this summer. Perhaps I can save someone money and a bad experience that can really ruin a great stay.

I rented a car with Avis. We had a blast driving through London and around. No speeding tickets or accidents -- but three tickets for using what they called "congested roads" in central London, for about $347. All I got was a letter from Avis telling me of the fines and that they had charged my credit card. No explanations.

I finally found information on "Congestion Charges," how to pay for using the streets and how to avoid a ticket. There is no way that a tourist would know how to pay, where to pay or what it means.

A driver stops his scooter near a C painted on the road, which marks the start of the London toll for 4-wheel vehicles, 2003. The cameras above the traffic
A driver stops his scooter near a C painted on the road, which marks the start of the London toll for 4-wheel vehicles, 2003. The cameras above the traffic lights, left, will record the vehicle number to determine if the toll changes to enter central London have been paid. (AP Photo/Max Nash)

I feel that Avis could make this information available to tourists or better yet, install a device in the cars like toll transponders or make the payments and charge them back without penalty.

Miguel Llerena

San Jose

A A decade ago, London began charging a daily fee of around $16 on most motor vehicles operating in central London between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. It is one of the largest congestion charge zones in the world, with a goal of reducing traffic jams and raising money for London's transportation needs. Enforcement is primarily by reading license plate numbers from 1,360 cameras. To unaware tourists, it can be costly.

Now across the channel we go.

Q I snapped a photo a few weeks ago in Paris of a Smart car parked perpendicularly and in between two cars parked parallel. My wife drives a Smart car and wonders if it's legal to park like this on our streets. What are the rules governing parking?

Stan Bunger

KCBS

A Smart car  in Paris finds a creative solution to a parking crunch.
A Smart car in Paris finds a creative solution to a parking crunch. ( Stan Bunger )

A It's a creative and common way some French park small cars, as I observed when I visited France. But I wouldn't try it in the U.S., where it's generally illegal for one vehicle to park perpendicular amid others parked parallel.

Said Bond-the-S.F.-Traffic-Man:

"Perpendicular parking is allowed if it is established for the entire block and applies to all standard passenger vehicles. We do not recommend establishing perpendicular parking spaces that would in effect only be used by Smart (cars) and similar small vehicles. Doing this would allocate limited on-street public parking for the use of specific and still relatively rare vehicle models.

"The public could rightly object that street space has been given over for the exclusive use of a particular resident, which would be seen as unfair."

There's another problem. Most small cars today extend more than 8 feet into the street when parked at 90 degrees from the curb, and could pose a risk to passing traffic.

Now, down to Portugal we go.

Q I have been in Portugal for several months and am very impressed with the use of traffic circles. Cars slow down, merge into the circle and continue on. Considering that San Jose has a love affair with traffic signals and we see the results with horrible delays, I think traffic circles should be gradually introduced as a way to keep traffic moving and saving fuel.

Francisco Alves

Ponta Delgada, Portugal

A Gradually, they are. There are more than a dozen roundabouts on California highways with an additional dozen planned, and numerous traffic circles in the downtown San Jose area. The Federal Highway Administration estimates 150 to 250 roundabouts are being built each year nationally. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that roundabouts have reduced serious injuries and fatalities by 89 percent.

You can find Gary Richards' columns at www.mercurynews.com/mr-roadshow, under the main navigation bar at Opinion >> Columns, or at www.mercurynews.com/traffic. Follow Mr. Roadshow at Twitter.com/mrroadshow, look for him at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.