Does Your Town Do (Winter) ‘Parking Dibs’?

Just something on my mind given the battering the eastern seaboard is taking. I know Chicago (above) does, and so too does Boston, Pittsburgh too. But this is an alien concept in New York City, at least in my neck of the woods (though I’ve seen friends of drivers standing in spaces to reserve them temporarily). Put chairs out to reserve a spot and you’ll probably see them listed on Craigslist within the hour.

Why does the ‘parking dibs’ culture work in some places, but not in others? Does it actually work in the aforementioned towns, or has increased demand (or whatever) put strains on the custom? Any ‘dibs’ tales to tell?

This entry was posted on Monday, February 8th, 2010 at 5:41 pm and is filed under Parking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

23 Responses to “Does Your Town Do (Winter) ‘Parking Dibs’?”

  1. Adam Says:

    The funniest ‘parking dibs’ I have ever seen was this sign in Worcester, MA in March 2007:

    Original entry:

  2. Stephanie Says:

    It is now illegal in Somerville and Medford MA at least to save spaces. I personally enforce this by moving crates and chairs. I’ve only had one tire slashed. (and that was because I parked in front of the crazy lady on the street’s house before the storm) We have very limited parking in the best of times, during the winter, Medford at least, only allows parking on one side of the street and the snow banks make the few spots that can take more than one car, become one car spots. So my street goes from maybe 50 spots in the middle of the summer to around 20. Even in the middle of the summer there is not enough parking for all of us, so we really need to work together to make the winter parking work (but the old townies refuse to participate) I work 7 to 3:30 just to get parking in the winter before every one gets home.

  3. erok Says:

    Pittsburgh is notorious for this not just in the winter, but all year long. here’s a funny video about the phenomena and the lengths that people will go to keep their spot

    and some shots from a local artist that is documenting it:

  4. Josh R Says:

    We don’t do the dibs thing here in MN, but we have actual snow removal, so people aren’t shoveling out their own spaces and thus getting a sense of ownership. The number of spaces does decrease during the winter, but it’s just one of those “fact of life, deal with it or leave.” things.

  5. TLP Says:

    We definitely do this in Philly. Folding chair, beach chair, trash can, whatever’s handy.

  6. Sean Says:

    Being from MN, I don’t understand this, either.

    The road is a PUBLIC way, not private property. So those who get their chairs, etc removed really have nothing to complain about.

  7. wes kirkman Says:

    So obnoxious. The amount of self importance and entitlement that must go into behavior like this is astounding.

  8. Dave Says:

    I so want to go sit in the chair and read a book and then act miffed when someone wants to move the chair to park.

    Seriously, I lived in Austin, TX (no snow) and my neighbor used to get mad if I parked on the street in front of her house when I didn’t want to block my roommate into our driveway. Mind you, the neighbor had a driveway too, which I wasn’t anywhere near. I told her (in a polite way) to get stuffed.

  9. Willie Says:

    I agree with wes. I just moved to pittsburgh about a year ago. I bike and dont own a car but its really annoying to watch assholes around my neighborhood put chairs out to save a spot. What makes them so important? Yesterday I watched the lady that has appointed herself the neighbor hood watchdog put chairs in her neighbors spots while they where are work. If they where worried about it they would of put the chair in the spot them self. After that she stood on the side of the road and yelled at people to slow down before getting her fat ass in her car and speeding off like a jerk. I can tell you first hand that most of the people in pittsburgh think they are entitled to drive and act however they want, but in reality most of them are just douchebags.

  10. LW Says:

    It’s obnoxious until you’ve got 20 inches of snow and you’ve spent two days digging your car out of the driveway and clearing a spot for yourself on the road.

    That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.

    As for the backwards parking thing that the video mentioned, I’d wager that’s more obnoxious because you’re never really sure if you’re on a one-way street or not.

  11. Jan Says:

    I can’t remember seeing this phenomenon on this side of the Atlantic… This type of behavior can however be witnessed in The Netherlands too: on “Koninginnedag”, an annual holiday to celebrate the queen.
    People seem to become more creative every year in their ways to reserve a spot on the “rommelmarkt”, a market where Dutch people sell all the crap lying around in their basements or attics the rest of the year.

  12. erok Says:

    This article just came out in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today (our main daily). It claims that the tradition goes back to at least the 50s, where there is apparently an old photo of a parking chair.

  13. Jack Says:

    The car culture mentality is in full bloom in the winter months.

  14. Josh R Says:

    “It’s obnoxious until you’ve got 20 inches of snow and you’ve spent two days digging your car out of the driveway and clearing a spot for yourself on the road.”

    But, if you have a driveway, why do you need to clear a spot on the road… *head explodes*

    Anyway, I totally get why people feel like they “own” a space after having to clear it off to park there, but you can’t call dibs on a section of a public road, you just can’t. If someone takes a space you feel is “Yours” you have no legal recourse, and if you do something stupid like vandalize their car, you should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

    If there is insufficient parking on your street, and you can’t handle that fact, then you need to do something in your own life to change that. Figure out if your property could accommodate an off street parking spot, move to someplace where you have off street parking, whatever. The world does not owe you free, convenient parking, if you want it, you have to arrange to have it, legally.

    (now if someone parks in your driveway, on your property, that’s a whole different kettle of fish.)

  15. Mrs. Davis Says:

    Lots of interesting commentary on this topic.

    From my point of view, the municipality has abandoned its property right by piling snow into parking areas and it can no longer be considered a “public road” until the snow is removed. If some private person clears it out and creates a space where there was none before, usually because they have to go to work, they ought to be able to use the spot when they get home until the snow is gone.

    And in my town, 275 years old and laid out well before people were concerned about cars or even wagons it sometimes seems, most of the people who park on street don’t have driveways because they can’t afford them. This anti-dibbing seems to come from elitists who don’t need to park on street and haven’t had to dig their car out after a visit from the plows and then dig another one when they get home after a hard day’s work. You’ll get little sympathy from me if you get keyed or flatted when you steal a space. That’s how equity and order are maintained at low cost.

  16. Josh R Says:

    if the municipality has indeed failed to serve the taxpayers by piling snow into parking areas, then the taxpayers need to get their government to serve them better, not create bullshit rules on the fly and vandalize people’s cars if they break the so called rules. We somehow manage to not have “dib” here in Minnesota dispute large amounts of snow every year and some pretty narrow streets. We pay for proper snow removal and get snow removal. Yes, things get tight, particularly right after a heavy snowfall, and toward the end of the winter, yet we somehow survive without turning into savages. Are we better then people who live out east? doubtful, I think we’re just more willing to put up with the inconvenience. The state is known for it’s bad winters, so you don’t get much traction here if you complain and act like you alone shouldn’t be inconvenienced by the weather.

    And for the record, I damn well did live in an area where I had to shovel out, leave, and find a parking spot later. Sometimes I ended up parking a block or two from home and walking. I didn’t like it, I saved up and moved to a place where I had off street parking, I didn’t vandalize other people’s cars or otherwise break the law because I had an entitlement complex and somehow felt I didn’t have to pay taxes for snow removal, but somehow still deserved a space on the public street right in front of my apartment. All the rationalization in the world doesn’t change the fact that it’s illegal to claim a space on the public road and illegal to vandalize other people’s property. Jerks do it because it’s too hard to think about the future and actually try to solve the problem long term by getting the city government (who work for them after all) to change their snow removal strategy.

    One person’s “equity and order maintained at low cost.” is another person’s “Whoever is willing to be an asshole wins.” I’m not willing to break the law by blocking a public road or vandalizing someone’s car, so I would “lose” in that environment. Nobody should be suffer for obeying the law while those who break it get rewarded, it’s just wrong.

  17. Lee Watkins Says:

    In Baltimore city, this is an epidemic. What happens is that anyone who doesn’t mark a spot can’t find an unmarked space, because all the available spaces are marked by others. The reason the others marked spaces is because they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to find anything either. See, the main reason everyone has to mark spaces is because everyone else marks spaces. But I see it differently…. If everyone followed the law than there wouldn’t be any problem.

    I dug out a public parking spot in order to get my car out. Since I left that space behind, unmarked, available to everyone else, I am now clearly entitled to all other public parking spaces that have been dug out by others. I haven’t broken the law, and neither should anyone else. If I see chairs in the road, I will toss them out of the way. Or maybe I will keep them… I followed the law and so should others.

  18. wes kirkman Says:

    “This anti-dibbing seems to come from elitists who don’t need to park on street and haven’t had to dig their car out after a visit from the plows.”

    Correct; I just walk to work in my elitist fashion. Sounds like you are having a tough time dealing with the realities of your car. I’m sorry it isn’t all it was made out to be, but seems rather silly for everyone else to lose public space just because you are having a hard time. I don’t expect everyone to buy my winter boots because the City doesn’t plow the sidewalks; why should I pay for their car storage?

    “Or maybe I will keep them…”

    Hilarious. I’m picturing you leaving the chair in the backseat so when they return to “their” spot, they see their parking chair in your car. Can’t stop laughing over that one.

  19. Josh R Says:

    And now we’re into the logical conclusion of the “I earned that space” argument, people claiming spaces before it’s even snowed.

    After all, they live there, right? They deserve a reserved space year round! It’s their right as Americans!

  20. I. P. Says:

    St. Petersburg, Russia —

  21. Vagabondblogger Says:

    In Cairo, that sort of thing, but more with rocks & shrubs is done all year long. I drag the damn shrub out to our space on Fridays, as we leave, since the boab (doorman) is off. We live on a street with 4 restaurants and a lot of traffic on the weekends (Fridays & Saturdays). It’s a space saver, dibs of a sort, saying, “don’t park here.” But, I have lived, in the US, in a busy area, arriving home late at night looking for a space near my home. As a female, it can be intimidating, making that short walk a bit more longer, and more dangerous. Also, how many times has anyone driven into a multi leveled garage, only to find all the lower lever and “convenient” spaces are “reserved”? What’s the difference?

  22. Aaron W. Says:

    I’ve lived in snowy parts to and have never seen this. I think the big difference is that there was usually an excess of on-street parking available.

    If you want to reserve a spot in the public right of way you should rent it from the city. Problem solved. You rent the house/apt you live in. I can’t store my personal belongings in any other public space why is the street any different.

    This process creates a shortage of parking spots for the time when the space isn’t actually occupied. This is precisely why business want short term meters in front of their buildings so people don’t reserve a spot all day long. Turnover of parking spots means that at any given time there might be a space for your car.

  23. clever-title Says:

    If I shovel the sidewalk in front of my house, can I put up sawhorses to prevent other people from using the concrete I “earned” by shoveling?

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