Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Entitled parking behaviour

There's been a lot of back and forth in Boston advocacy circles about the importance of plowing bike lanes, and the  feeling that the general use of bike lanes as snow storage spaces is disrespectful at best and diabolical at worst.   I think the rhetoric has gotten a bit out of hand.

First of all, we're talking about WAY more snow than usual. It's not like we're talking about 6". I've read varying estimates from 43" to 60" and that was before this last storm that has given us 6" so far with the threat of another 12".  There really isn't anywhere to put the damn stuff.  My tiny front yard is piled to at least 3' and deeper in some places where I've been able to throw the stuff from the sidewalk over the fence.

Secondly, and I acknowledge the chicken and the egg element to this, but there just aren't that many bikers out in these conditions.  Even moderately hardcore riders (I'll count myself in this group, but just barely) aren't willing to go out and play bumper cars with SUV's in salty slush.  Fortunately Boston offers a lot of transit and walking options for getting around.   We'll start riding more when the roads are back to mostly dry pavement.

Thirdly,  they're using parking spots as storage too- it's not just the bike lane.  However, this has lead to some really entitled parking behavior.   It seems pretty obvious to me that if the parking spot is completely filled (with a car or with snow) it's not an available parking spot.   Unfortunately,  there are a lot of people who think that they have the right just to park in the travel lane adjacent to the parking spot.  On Broadway just off the Longfellow bridge- the road was narrowed to just one lane because of this, and I've seen it lots of other places too.  I know that the city put "no parking" signs up,  but I'm not sure if it's being enforced.  (sorry for the lousy pictures- the combo of camera phone and mercury vapor light is pretty awful)  See the light post? That's the curb.  Normally this is parking lane, bike lane, traffic lane.  The parking and bike lanes are completely full of 6' of snow.

See the (ninja) biker who is about to run into the maroon car parked in the right lane?

I really hope that the city is ticketing the hell out of these people- maybe subsidize  some of the overtime snow plowing.  Yes, it's an inconvenience not to have those parking spots, but its a snow emergency, and we all have to live with some inconvenience.  Pedestrians have to deal with plowed over intersections,  bikers have to ride in the traffic lanes,  cars have to dig out after the plow goes by and be careful of bikers and pedestrians in the road.  If you can't find a parking spot, perhaps you should consider alternate transportation for the duration instead of adding to the traffic chaos by just deciding to park in the street.


  1. Actually, in a situation like y'all are in, ticketing isn't appropriate. What'd be appropriate would be impoundment without warning. The police can tell the scofflaws where they have to go to bail their cars out. Let the wreckers work on commission if necessary.

    Besides the points you made, people parking as you describe make emergency response dangerous and slow it down.

    As an aside, if you're "moderately hardcore" to ride in those conditions, Warren Buffett is "well to do." We got an inch of sleet and it shut our light rail down.

  2. mmm ... I am honestly somewhat conflicted on this stance. A part of me actually feels like demanding snow clearance on a bike lance isn't particularly reasonable, even taking weather into account. Where is that snow supposed to go? On the sidewalk? That inconveniences pedestrians. Cyclists are already allowed to ride their bikes in a regular traffic lane with other vehicles, so the loss of a bike lane is a temporary inconvenience with workarounds.

    With that said, I am also cognizant of the fact that availability of bike lanes are a key motivator in getting many casual cyclists to ride their bikes, and I can't ask all of them to jump into the deep end of winter biking by just telling them to suck it up and learn some vehicular cycling. We all just have to deal with whatever conditions are most comfortable to us.

    I am with you on the egregiousness of people who are essentially double parking due to parking spots being filled in. It's partcularly galling when it's an SUV whose owner has neither the desire nor the skills to actually drive their vehicle up on to the snowbank as one would with a proper 4x4.

  3. Seems like the biggest story of the Chicago blizzard is people having to dig their cars out of the snow. Like, wow, big deal. Tired of hearing about it.

    I don't mind so much that the bike lanes are full of snow, as long as cars don't honk at me for riding in the lane (which they usually don't).

  4. I'll be contrarian--I think it is totally reasonable that the City of Cambridge remove snow (esp. by 3 days after the last snowfall on major arteries and in heavily used retail areas like Harvard Square).

    Instead of posting signs that parking against the snow bank is illegal, they are deploying ticketers to increase the city's revenue stream. Their focus is clearly not public safety (if it were: remove snow, post signs, have the meter maids/guys tell motorists they cannot park...or better yet, give them a shovel) but do not ticket when there is no place to park and there is no indication taht it is either illegal or safe. That is entrapment.

  5. @ Anon,
    They have been posting some places "no parking" and more importantly cambridge city parking code states that you can't park in a snow filled spot:

    "ARTICLE XIII, Section 13.1:
    Except as otherwise provided in this article every person stopping or parking upon a roadway shall so stop or park with both wheels, on the side of the vehicle adjacent to the curb, within 12 inches of the curb or edge of roadway. Upon streets or parts of streets which have been marked or signed for angle parking, persons parking shall park with one wheel within 12 inches from the curb. Upon any street or parts thereof where snow, ice or debris or other obstruction prevents the parking of a vehicle as specified in (a) or (b) above, any vehicle parked with the wheels more than 12 inches from the curb shall be considered in violation of this section of the regulations."

    So it's against the law, I don't consider it entrapment. If you can't find a legal spot, that doesn't give you the right to park illegally.

  6. Oh, and while obviously I don't want them going around with a ruler, issuing tickets to anyone parked 13" away from the curb, the really really egregious examples (like above) need to be addressed.
    BTW- I understand that after complaints, they have been either ticketing or towing cars in the area shown in the photos- there were no cars when I rode it on Monday night.

  7. ...perhaps they should affix a copy of the parking regulations to the meters? we don't all live in Cambridge or know the specifics of the rules.

    A simple "no parking" does seem a good idea to me since most people actually are law abiding and doing their best.

    But frankly, Cambridge needs to move the snow rather than wait for spring.