Why Did I Get a Ticket for Wrong-Way Parking on a Side Street?

From a purely rational standpoint, we shouldn’t be parking on the street at all.

Folks on my narrow, residential street have always parked in whichever direction is convenient—until today, when we all got ticketed. On busy streets I can understand this law, but on a little side street where there's no thru traffic, what's the point?

—Eric K.

Like many supporters of forward-thinking urban planning, I benefit from a habit of mind I like to call "hypocrisy."

Thus, I have no problem championing high-density housing while demanding a single-family home for myself, chiding others about recycling and composting while throwing full tubs of moldy salsa directly into the trash, or—in this case—deriding on-street parking as a waste of public space while complaining bitterly whenever I have to walk more than 25 yards from my car to the gym.

Here's the thing: From a purely rational standpoint, Eric, you and I shouldn't be parking on the street at all.

Related: Has Portland City Hall Learned Its Lesson About Parking Spaces Raising Rents?

Normally, if you want to own a large, bulky item—an above-ground pool, say, or a pair of oxen—it's your responsibility to find a place to put it. Somehow, though, when it comes to the sacred automobile, free public storage becomes a God-given right.

In economic terms, this amounts to a government subsidy of private automobile ownership—something we're theoretically trying to discourage. (I own two.) It's like being able to get free meth-lab parts from Metro.

To actually answer your question, the main problem with wrong-way parking is that you can't see oncoming traffic when you're pulling out—you and your eyes are now on the curb side of the car, where visibility is poor.

Related: Do You Actually Need to Stop at that Stop Sign?

"We know of people being seriously injured in crashes caused by people parking the wrong direction," scolds Dylan Rivera of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. It's only funny until someone loses an eye.

Why are you getting busted for it only now? Parking Enforcement doesn't patrol residential neighborhoods unless it gets a complaint—but now one of your neighbors has sold you out. (My money's on the dude with the ox.)

Related: Can You Get Out of a Ticket?

Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com