Neighborhood Street Parking Etiquette


A few weeks ago, I attended a party at a friend's house. She lives on a fairly narrow street, with a small driveway and houses set close together. I was on the early side and pulled up against her lawn, on the street. As more guests arrived, they all parked on the street, extending along her neighbors houses on both sides. Since it was a party with an outdoor component, the moms were all sitting together when her neighbor stormed over angrily, demanding to know why he could barely squeeze his truck down his own street and couldn't park in front of his own house (the cars of his family members were in his own driveway), and that he'd be calling the police to take care of this. None of us really knew what to say. We were all parked legally, right?

My friend managed to calm him down with a combination of light hearted banter and friendly apologies. She brought him some goodies and he went home with no further threats, but still a very grumpy attitude. The party went on.  But were we wrong?

 

When it comes to street parking, there's what's legal, and there's what's courteous.

In some neighborhoods, one side of the street will be labeled as "no parking". This usually happens on a one-way street, or a very narrow street, and it's entirely up to the town or city to both mark and enforce, not the homeowners.

In this case, it's a public street, with no signs forbidding parking on either side. As long as we were not parked on anyone's actual lawn, we were well within our legal right.

So, all the guests were legal. But does that mean we were right?

That's a gray area. It's definitely annoying to have trouble driving down your street or being forced to park further away.

However, all the advice I found, ranging from police departments to local etiquette columnists, focused on being kind and polite over arguing about legality. The etiquette suggested was:

        1.     The unwritten rule is that the spot directly in front of your house is "yours", under normal circumstances. If another car is regularly parked there, it's ok to ask the owner of the car to leave the space in front of your house open for you, but know that this is an unwritten rule, and it's entirely a "early bird gets the parking spot" situation. You don't own the space.

         2.     For parties, holidays, events, it's generally considerate to warn your neighbors that you'll be expecting some cars to be filling the street, and that you'll do your best to steer your guests to cause the least amount of inconvenience.

         3.      When a situation arises, being nice almost always resolves it more quickly than angry confrontation.

In this case, the neighborhood is friendly, and my friend admitted she probably should have warned people, or had us park in the cul de sac at the end of the road. And on the other hand, had the neighbor stopped by and said "hey, I really need to pull my truck in front of my house. Do you know whose car this is? Would they mind moving?", I'm sure any of us would have happily agreed. By storming over, calling us selfish jerks, and threatening to have our cars towed, we weren't as inclined to help.  In many situations like this, consideration can really diffuse a potentially heated situation!
; ;