Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sidewalk Parking: A crusade

Today I saw this on the way to church:

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I have a tendency towards obsession, so I have to be careful that I don't turn into a single-minded anti-sidewalk-parking vigilante. Instead, I have a plan. First, I will call back the Captain Richardson at the police department and ask him if he passed my message along to the officer who does work in the north part of the city. Second, I will continue to photograph the offending cars and file the photos away as though documenting a science experiment, the better to present to the police department or mayor's office, depending on how things go. Third, I will continue to ask people not to park on the sidewalk if I see them near their cars. This can, as it turns out, have an effect. Because today, there were a few people on the porch of a house in front of which a car consistently parks with two wheels on the curb. Now I realize that it is not actually legal to park with any wheels on the curb, but if all of the problem cars parked like this, I would not be on a crusade. There is still room to get by on the sidewalk, so I wouldn't be forced into the street, and I wouldn't care that much. But cars like the Cadillac and Ford above have ruined it for everyone, and I can't start making exceptions.

So I asked the people on the porch if they owned the car, and then asked them not to park on the sidewalk. "But I have to park on the sidewalk," the owner told me.

Let me interrupt myself here to say that the most perplexing part of this entire thing has been the responses of people when I ask them not to park on the sidewalk. You see, I recognize that not a lot of people walk places anymore, and I assumed that the people parking on the sidewalk are just worried about their cars being sideswiped and want to give the moving traffic as much room as possible. But I thought that if I pointed out to them that they were forcing me and my children into the street that the people would apologize! "Oh, my goodness!" I thought they'd say. "Sorry! I didn't realize!" and then they would stop parking on the sidewalk. What I did not expect was a litany of rationalizations about why it's OK for them to park on the sidewalk. Before today, I had asked five people to stop parking on the sidewalk. Let me paraphrase their responses:

1. OK. (Then she got into the car and drove away.)
2. But I don't want my car to be hit. (This is the woman who promised not to park so far onto the sidewalk and also not next to the tree. Not doing a great job:)
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3. But I'm only going to be here for five minutes.
4. I wanted to park my car in the shade. (This was from a postal worker in an official vehicle. This is how he parked it:)
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5. Oh! Sorry!

So one apology out of five. Not a great percentage.

But let's return to today's encounter, in which the car's owner tried to explain to me that she needed to park on the sidewalk because the street was so dangerous. "Do you know how many cars have been totaled here?" she said. "But, you see, that is why I do not want to have to walk in the street with my children!" I said. "But everyone does it," she said. "That doesn't make it OK," I said. "You're not supposed to park on the sidewalk! Please don't park on the sidewalk!" and then I had to keep walking, because I am terrible at confrontation and was starting to cry, but I could hear her saying, "OK. OK," as I walked away.

And then! When we drove by later, I saw that she had moved her car! She moved it! Onto the street! I had to go out again later, and made a point to drive by her house to thank her for moving it, because she totally made my day.

But for those of you who have also become invested in this, know that I am not going to give up. Last Friday I was forced with my stroller into the middle of a very busy major street because of a long line of sidewalk parkers, and this cannot stand. It is going to take a while, I think, because it is obvious that the culture needs to change, but I shall persevere. But without becoming unhealthily obsessed.


Jessica said...

Leave a letter on their windshield written by the children asking the drivers to think of their safety next time they park of the sidewalk.

Christy said...

Oh, I like Jessica's idea! But I'd definitely still say something if you see them, since it's easy to ignore/rationalize when someone is not standing in front of you. Apparently, it's still pretty easy to ignore/rationalize when someone IS standing in front of you asking you to stop a behavior.

Kara said...

This post reminds me of yet another reason why I no longer live in New England- streets that are too narrow. I swear I get claustrophobic when I walk near my Mom's house in Massachusetts- the sidewalks are level with the street, everyone parks on them, and the streets really aren't wide enough to be a two way street and allow parking on both sides. It's a fricking nightmare.

Anne - AnnabelleSpeaks said...

I am totally invested in this sidewalk mess. I could see how I MIGHT park on the sidewalk in some of those, since to me it looks like part of the street since the high curb is on the far side of the sidewalk by the yard. But I would be embarrassed if someone pointed it out and fix my behavior right away. Also I'm not native to the area, if that's how sidewalks just ARE in New England people should know.
You'll keep us updated, right?

Steelhoof said...

I would be soooo tempted to leave a note referring to the bright messy "scratches" in lipstick where the stroller would leave it's mark.