If San Francisco is “the city that knows how” — we’ll leave that debate for later — then Berkeley is surely “the city that knows how you should do it.” Having lived there for decades, I’ve come to wonder whether there’s anywhere on earth where total strangers are so willing to offer advice and direction on all topics, the vital and the trivial alike. Over the years, I’ve had people offer free instruction on child-rearing, dog-walking and the proper method of standing in line. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been tempted to do the same.
I’ve noticed this penchant for instruction asserting itself recently in matters related to parking in residential neighborhoods, usually by way of homemade signs alerting motorists to local conditions of which they might not be aware.
Sometimes the advisories are helpful. Folks a block over from where I live very helpfully put up placards on street-sweeping days, presumably so people parking in the area can avoid tickets. Sometimes the notices are peremptory, directives on how to park, and what should be parked, in a given space.
On one level, it’s probably an exercise in consciousness-raising: “Hey, Mr. Driver, I bet you didn’t realize you don’t have to hog the whole space!” Or, “It’s not nice of you to park your SUV here where two Honda Fits would, um, fit.”
On another level, one wonders how much control people expect to have over their surroundings. As someone who’s occasionally irritated by commuters turning his street into a weekday parking lot, with much of the attendant rudeness and lack of care that implies, I kind of sympathize. I watch drivers park with the back end of their cars hanging over into other people’s driveways, get out and check their handiwork, then walk off to catch BART or the casual carpool or their Google bus. (And no, I generally don’t want to get people ticketed; besides, I’ve had a Berkeley cop tell me he’d write a ticket only when a car was parked so far over the driveway that it actually made it impossible to get in or out.)
So, neighbors far and wide continue their effort to enlighten the driving public.
An excellent recent example of someone who’s taking management of their curb space to new heights comes (above right) from a homeowner in North Berkeley who wants parkers to recognize that they are invited to pull partway across the driveway. He or she has actually created an extra parking space (a considerate gesture given the number of commuters driving to the neighborhood. The sign says: “If you are going to park here, pull up to this bin so another car can park here. We appreciate your cooperation.”