Parking With Your Car Sticking Out Into the Road Is Foolish, but Is It Legal?

When the parked cars don't block the sidewalk, they're in danger of being struck by other drivers. And then there's the fire hydrant issue. Image: Google Street View
When the parked cars don't block the sidewalk, they're in danger of being struck by other drivers. And then there's the fire hydrant issue. Image: Google Street View

Streetsblog reader Deni Mayer contacted us yesterday about an unusual car parking conundrum is his neighborhood. Last summer he and his wife moved into a condo on the 100 block of West Delaware in the Gold Coast, between Clark and LaSalle and just west of Washington Square Park. It’s a narrow one-way westbound street, and the east half of the block has townhouses on the north side of the street. Each of these homes has two parking garages and driveways that cross the sidewalk.

According to Mayer, the driveway aprons often get used as parking spots, but they’re too short to accommodate the entire length of a standard car, so there’s been a problem with parked cars obstructing the pedestrian right-of-way and/or sticking out into the street. “Sick of having to walk around bumpers on the sidewalk all the time I decided to do something about it,” he said.

First Mayer put notes on the worst offenders’ cars explaining that it was unlawful and inconsiderate to park this way, he said. He added that the worst location was a building where contractors were doing a guy rehab and parked their cars all say, while the apparent owner parked in the driveway every night. (Presumably the owner had a second vehicle in the garage or, as so many Chicagoan do, was simply using the garage to store other items.)

“Though the blocking of the sidewalk got a little better after that they did not stop so I started reporting it to the city and requesting ticketing,” Mayer said. “Amazingly this actually worked. Cops came and ticketed cars at least some of the time I called. It seemed to really make a difference for the last couple of weeks and the contractors parked on the street using guest neighborhood stickers. Most of the other driveways seemed to stay clear most of the time too.”

DSC08800

However, Mayer said this week drivers started parking their vehicles on the short driveways again, and now they’re displaying placards in their windshields that claim it’s legal to do so as long as they don’t block the pedestrian right of way. The signs cite two sections of Chicago’s Municipal Code for their justification, stating that it’s legal to park a vehicle on a privately owned driveway apron as long as:

9-64-020 sec b – it leaves available “no less than ten feet of the width of the roadway for free movement of vehicular traffic on a one-way street” and

9-64-110 sec d – is not “blocking the sidewalk.”

The placards claim that the 18th Police District’s Business liaison office and local alderman Brian Hopkins’ office have confirmed that this parking practice is in compliance with the code.

However Mayer notes that Section 9-64-020 sec a of the code says it’s illegal to park in any other way than parallel to the curb and facing the direction of traffic, except for motorcycles or scooter and in designated diagonal parking areas. “That seems to be pretty clear that parking hanging out of a driveway is not legal in any way,” he said. Also, he notes that the driveway closest to Clark is about five feet from a fire hydrant, “so that can’t possible be legal.”

“I know most people think it isn’t a big deal if I’ve gotten them to stop blocking the sidewalk (but that will creep back),” Mayer wrote. “But there are other issues. There’s the fire hydrant situation, as well as the fact that these cars block sight lines for cars turning onto Delaware from Clark. Everyone else who wants to use street space on this block [with permitted parking] has to pay for a permit or a guest passes, but the townhouse owners think they get two extra free spaces to go along with their two garage spaces. And frankly, it also looks like s—.”

According to Hopkins’ assistant Christian Ficara, one of townhouse owners with the last name Levitian contacted the ward office on February 13 about a ticket he got for parking on the sidewalk. “He provided us a photo of the vehicle, which showed it was parked on the driveway apron with the sidewalk clear, and inquired as to the legality of the parking situation,” Ficara said. “We referred Mr. Levitian to the Police Department who could provide an accurate interpretation of the relevant ordinance, and what is considered to be a violation.”

According to Officer Joe Incaprera of the 18th District is currently trying to get clarification on whether it’s legal to park on the driveway aprons with part of the vehicle sticking into the street. “If any portion of the vehicle is on the sidewalk, that’s an automated citation,” Incaprera said. The police district has reached out to one of the city’s administrative judges for clarification on the issue and is currently waiting for a reply, he added.

Ficara told me that, contrary to what the placards say, Hopkins has not yet confirmed that this parking practice is incompliance with the city code. “After learning of the placard indicating our office’s approval that Mr. Levitian placed in his vehicle, our office respectfully requested it be removed.”

So stay tuned to find out whether or not Gold Coast motorists will be allowed to continue parking with part of their vehicle sticking into the roadway. At any rate this practice seems like a great way to get your car struck by another passing driver.

  • rduke

    A few people in my neighborhood do this, but it’s only the houses on corners where there is an alley and space for a garage. Mostly two and three-flats, old stock. It never really bothers me since I’d prefer they keep the sidewalk clear (and shocked at their thoughtfulness), but I can imagine my feelings being different if almost everyone on my block did it.

    I mean, how many cars do people need? You live in Gold Coast, you shouldn’t have a problem getting anywhere within 4-5 miles without using a car! Grab a bike, take the LFT and connect with city streets north or south, walk the 1/4 mile to Clark/Division.

    Or, since it isn’t exactly a poor neighborhood, take the Uber/Lyft one assumes they can afford.

  • what_eva

    The guy’s flyer is completely wrong.

    9-64-020b is a further restriction on parking saying that there must be at least 10 feet of width on a one-way and 18 feet on a two-way street. It does *not* say that it allows apron parking. What this really means is that if a street is narrow and you have a wide vehicle it might not be legal for you to park. eg, narrow one-way non-residential street, might be legal to park a car, but not a box truck.

    9-64-110d just straight up says no parking on the sidewalk. Nothing about apron parking.

    I agree with Mr. Mayer, I can find no exception to 9-64-020a that requires cars be parked parallel to traffic flow. The only exceptions are motorcycles/scooters and designated diagonal parking. That said, I’ve seen people parked like this all of the time, so it seems to be something that isn’t enforced.

  • Roo_Beav

    I have a hard time getting worked up over this. I’d say let the parking slide as long as the sidewalk is clear and the back end of the car protrudes into the street no further than the width of a parallel parked car and the fire hydrant has clearance. (There’s no way a car can parallel park on that side of the street and not block one of the driveways.)

  • Bobo Chimpan

    Never ceases to amaze me how Chicago is a town where people feel free to ignore actual parking regulations (9-40-060 is a common example) but everybody knows better than to park in a spot that some jerk has illegally piled a bunch of junk into. The difference being one of enforcement. The actual laws aren’t enforced, but the fake one is.

  • Pat

    I agree it looks very junky! (Not that cars parked parallel are anything to look at.) Why not just pave over the parkways and put our cars there while we’re at it.

    Legal or not, these owners have the privilege of a curb cut. Not only does the driveway take a space away in neighborhoods where parking is tight, now they get to double down on it?

  • Pat

    My poor neighbor’s driveway is too steep/garage too close for him to fit his Infinity SUV. You expect him to park this on the street? In East Lakeview?!

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/322828991f9f7c5cf942b0f870999227f0cb36dfb8c532923c0c6127469a63ce.jpg

  • Jeremy

    You are correct. In fact, 9-64-020 is titled “Parallel Parking – Obstruction of traffic”. The entire law deals with parallel parking, so this perpendicular parking is illegal.

  • Deni

    Thanks for the post John, you summed it all up nicely. Hoping for a response from Hopkins’ office myself on this. It is very telling that even the Google street view you posted shows two cars parked like this, including the one next to the fire hydrant where there is a car every day.

    I don’t expect I’ll be winning a popularity contests on my block, but I’m not the only one that lives here bothered by it. I’m just the first one to try to do something about it.

  • Deni

    I’d say that’s an easy answer, but as I’ve seen after the first round of ticketing happened they are careful about how far in they pull at first, but then it creeps back to sidewalk obstruction fairly quick. And there are other issues why this is bad besides just blocked sidewalks.

  • Jacob Wilson

    This is such an idiotic practice for so many reasons not least of which is the fact that this means oblivious drivers (who we know don’t check their mirrors) end up BACKING into live lanes of traffic. That alone should be reason enough to completely ban the practice. Americans love pulling front first into their parking spots though.

  • evilp

    “the townhouse owners think they get two extra free spaces to go along with their two garage spaces” ahhh, jealousy. Now we get to the heart of the matter. This moron should shut his yap because without those townhouses that area is an undesirable noman’s land of real estate.

  • Deni

    What exactly is it you think I’m jealous of? Without those townhouses there would be an old vintage building without curb cutouts, not an “undesirable no man’s land” of real estate in the most expensive part of the city.

  • what_eva

    To the contrary, if they’re parking on the apron in neighborhoods where parking is tight, they’re not taking up a space somewhere else.

    I’m not going to argue that it’s legal by any means, but if there is room for a car to be not blocking the sidewalk or a traffic lane, it’s not something I’m going to get worked up about.

  • Guy Ross

    ‘They’re rich in a poor neighborhood so they should be able to do whatever they want!’

    Even if we take your statement at face value (it’s bullshit) Is this really your argument?

  • Pat

    Maybe. Or maybe it encourages them to have two cars because now they have an extra designated spot aside from their garage.

  • Guy Ross

    There is a cut to allow a car to be parked inside their home and is illegal to be parked on by anyone than the occupant of the property. So, by allowing the cut, the occupant now has two private parking spots – one they pay for and one the city pays for. It also reduces green space. Sorry, but encouraging residents in these area that you describe as ‘tight’ to own two cars is exactly the problem, and not a nifty solution as you seem to feel.

  • Pat

    I think a lot of people would be happy to live in that area.

  • Guy Ross

    Get with the program Deni, garage doors are what makes the street level the best it can be! Bars, barber shops and florists really ruin a neighborhood.

  • Carter O’Brien

    No, I have lots of neighbors who do this & John is correct, they are largely just using the garage for storage. If they properly cited for parking illegally they would likely just clean out some of the junk and use the garage – which is what a curb cut is intended to do, provide access to a garage when there either isn’t an alley, or where space limitations in the alley would make it prohibitively difficult to pull in and out that way.

  • Carter O’Brien

    It is the properties on the alleys that are the biggest problem in my experience, as having the cars (or colossal SUVs as is often the case) parked perpendicularly blocks sight lines for drivers exiting the alley. Said drivers have to pull out far beyond where the alley meets the sidewalk to look down the street, which absolutely is hazardous for pedestrians and kids riding their bikes on the sidewalk.

    I used to call the cops about this, but only once did they write a ticket, and as the car continued to park illegally I assume he beat the ticket. It’s bunk, but if nothing else it is Exhibit A why curb cuts should never, ever, ever be approved moving forward.

  • Anne A

    Having walls of ginormous SUVs parked too close to crosswalks or alley openings, blocking sightlines at corners and alleys is a huge problem in my neighborhood.

  • How is “stuck between the sidewalk and the traffic lanes” not “parked on the street”?

    Park across the driveway, if you’re not going to pull into it. That leaves space for others on your street and also doesn’t provide a traffic hazard.

  • So block your own driveway. They’re clearly intending to move the car before getting anything out of it anyway.

  • So they should parallel across their own driveway.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Well, this could be seen as a form of “traffic calming” (horizontal deflection, element in roadway, etc.), keeping the cars moving very slowly and carefully rather than hauling arse down the road … :)

  • Carter O’Brien

    Really, these are not driveways on private property, these are curb cuts. They are meant to provide access to garages whereby having standard alley access is either deemed logistically challenging or there is no alley providing access.

    Parking horizontally in these spaces does create a traffic hazard. These modifications were historically made on the corner properties abutting the alley, so having that space filled with a vehicle blocks sightlines for vehicles leaving the alley (and for traffic approaching alleys). This in turn leads to those alley-exiting drivers having to focus harder on traffic as they merge, which distracts them from users of the sidewalks.

  • The photo in the story shows a row of tens of townhouses, all with driveways.

  • Carter O’Brien

    The driveway, as in, one’s private property driveway, ends at the sidewalk. Where those cars are actually parked is 50/50 in the street and on the public way. We lose parkway so that those property owners can have access to their private driveways/garages. See the difference?

  • Carter O’Brien

    From our CAPS officer: “If you see vehicles parked like this call and request they be
    ticketed. Please give the dispatcher the proper address, plate # and the
    violation. Thank you!”

    I am going to followup to see if there is some jargon that should be passed along to the dispatcher (if not I will simply quote there is a violation of 9-64-020a).

  • Carter O’Brien

    duplicating to make sure you get this!

    >
    I just spoke with our CAPS officer, who confirmed that this is not
    legal, and if we see vehicles parked like this to call 311 and request
    they be ticketed.

    He said to give the dispatcher the proper
    address, plate # and the violation (9-64-020a). If the dispatcher
    indicates any confusion, ask for the CSR number. For good measure, he
    suggested leaving your name & phone number, that way if there are
    any questions the officer can reach you directly.

    My take on this is that CPD is understaffed to make this a daily priority, so it is on
    we, the citizens to express that we want the law enforced, and they will
    be happy to do so.Thanks, John!

  • No, I maent on the street, across their own curb cut.

  • Carter O’Brien

    There is not enough space – in the image one of the parking slips is vacant. But the usual offenders are much worse, it is generally two cars parked side by side as if they had pulled in the garage.

  • If it’s wide enough to park two cars side-by-side, it’s wide enough to park one sideways at the curb.

    Likewise, any curb cut as specified in city code is an entire parking space in width.

    I mean, park blocking their driveway curb cut. Use their own designated “private” space, given to them by the curb allotment.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Sure, one parking parallel to the street in the curb cut would be preferable to two parked perpendicular and causing sightline problems and often blocking part of the sidewalk.

    But then you have privatized what would otherwise be a public street space, and in so doing are taking away parkway space where we could have a tree (insert numerous stats here about benefits of trees mitigating urban heat island effect, shading homes and reducing air co bills, absorbing storm water, etcz

    On a pragmatic level, that hypothetical is neither here nor there, as nobody is going to trade their “private” (though illegal) two spaces for one, which is also of dubious legality.

    And in that photo those driveways/curb cuts are clearly not as wide as you are saying they are supposed to be. I haven’t seen that code, but I imagine there is some easement variance that can override it.

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