Guerilla Parking Enforcement


No, these people aren’t Algonquin College students being persecuted for driving to school. These are their parents, married to their autos, and too lazy to park in the merchant’s free parking lot behind the store. Much easier to just park on the sidewalk.

Why don’t they stop on the road? Heavens! that would block traffic! That would be a sin! Much better to park on the sidewalk, the pedestrians won’t even know, and if one comes by, there’s lots of room to squeeze by.

Mr Red Volvo the Duck Lover, parks 100% on the sidewalk. He does this regularly, while his wife/mistress runs in to buy the meat.

At times like this I wish I walking with a seven-year old boy. I’d help him climb up the rear bumper, walk over the roof of the car, slide down the front window, and off the front bumper. That should drive the driver apoplectic!

Back in the 60’s my late uncle used to work on the Sparks Street Mall near Bank. There was a French-rights campaigner who used to drive down the Mall every day at noon to protest that there weren’t “no driving” signs in French. One day my uncle and a group of his loitering-on-the-mall lunch buddies walked before and behind the car at a dead slow walk, it took them a half hour to escort guy the one block while tourists clicked pictures of the quaint Ottawa customs. What Changing of the Guard, this is escorting the car!

More habitually, said Uncle used to spot cars blocking a cross walk, he’d march up to them, open the back door, scoot through on the seat, and exit the other side, leaving both doors wide open. This of course, predates auto-locking doors and paranoid-from-suburbia drivers.

Getting back to those selfish on-the-sidewalk parkers, what can we do about them? Call 3-1-1 and get the sidewalk visited by by-law officers, say, next week? Or is there something quicker we can do?

Right now, I like the idea of really sticky stickers that I can whip out of my commodious pockets and affix right on the centre of the driver’s windshield: Don’t Park on Our Sidewalk! Such stickers are available on the ‘net. And didn’t Billing’s Bridge Plaza do this a number of years ago on Rough Rider football nights, sticking them on parked cars after 9.30pm?

What creative — and preferably legal — suggestions do you have?

41 thoughts on “Guerilla Parking Enforcement

  1. I am so glad you posted this, as I thought I was the only pedestrian who finds this annoying!

    Walking to work on Preston one day, I found the sidewalk partially blocked by a car who decided that a parking spot wasn’t enough, but he had to be on half the sidewalk. Unfortunately, this was just north of the Queensway: there is a parking lot there on Preston with heavy cement barriers along the sidewalk. A woman was coming along from the opposite direction in her electric wheelchair, and she couldn’t get through. We had a conversation about the things we’d like to do to that car (key it, puncture a tire, write nasty notes). She had to turn around on the sidewalk and pass the car by going out on the street.

    I have this little fantasy of printing off bumper stickers that say: “Disrespectful to Pedestrians” and stick them on offending cars. But as for realistic and legal suggestions, I unfortunately have none.

  2. You kind of lost me at “preferably legal.” Hmmm… get an old wheelchair and lay it on its side beside the car, wrap some crime scene tape around chair and car. Cross street and watch the show.

  3. What about businesses? The Lord Elgin Hotel routinely uses the sidewalk on Elgin Street as overflow valet parking.

    1. The Chateau Laurier does too, on the Mackenzie St. entrance. I see it a lot when there’s a big event going on. A couple weeks ago, the driveway to the sidedoor was empty, but there were two or three vans parked on the sidewalk. It was a tight squeeze between his mirrors and the snowbanks, and certainly someone in a wheelchair couldn’t have gotten through.

      1. I have learned (through bruised hips) that it doesn’t pay to brush against side mirrors when overtaking a car; but you can stop and push them way out of alignment with your fingers.

  4. Your uncle sounds like quite a character. I have always wanted to hop up on a car blocking the intersection, especially when out for a run. But blocking the crossing is usually just stupidity. As bad as the red Hummer’s parking job is, the other two, parking entirely on the sidewalk strike me as incredibly rude and ignorant examples of drivers who care only about themselves. As to what to do? I had a problem with an unruly snow removal contractor (unlicenced!) and I talked to the city about it. They said to take photos and get the licence number. So I did. Apparently they got after him. Maybe the one offs don’t matter but if the duck person does this often you probably can do something about it. The photo tells the tale. Worth a try at any rate.

    1. I tried talking to one once. A Canada Post truck operator who managed to block two sidewalks right next to a corner parking lot that had lots of room to park. I pointed out that he was blocking the sidewalk, and it wasn’t until I pointed out that I could file a complaint with Canada Post that he gave up his glib “who cares” attitude.

      If you set your camera’s flash to go off (even if you don’t need it–in fact, take a real photo before you do), it will often send them away.

      If I’m walking through a crosswalk and somebody’s car is poking through the crosswalk, I’ll stop my pace suddenly and deliberately at their car, wherever my trajectory lines up with it. It makes for very clear body language that they are blocking other traffic. If they don’t back up (or if I’m in a hurry), I’ll make sure to walk around their hood in such a way as to lean over it (without touching it).



      – RG>

      1. Those are great. It inspires me to think of some others. Feel free to use them:

        “Sorry my sidewalk got in your car’s way”

        “Calling you an asshole is more satisfying for me, and cheaper for you, than having you ticketed”

        “You forgot to lock your vehicle to the bicycle rack. You’re lucky it hasn’t been stolen!”

        “This sidewalk is not your parking space. I reserved it last March.”

        “Thank you for helping to make the case for a downtown congestion charge”

        “Be careful parking your car off the road, pedestrians might not see you and hit you.”

        – RG>

  5. Great post.

    I see people parked on this sidewalk pretty much every day when I walk my daughter to and from school. I’ve called 311 about this, but they can never get there fast enough.

    What amazes me is that these drivers seem to have no shame. I had the pleasure of talking to one recently (he came back to his car while I was on the phone with bylaw). Here’s my memory of the conversation.

    me: “You know, this is a sidewalk, not a parking space. Parking here is incredibly rude.”

    driver: “Oh, it’s rude, is it?”

    me: “Yeah, it is. I walk by here all the time and I always call 311 when I see a car on the sidewalk.” [lame threat, I know]

    driver: [Smirking] “Oh, you do, eh? So that means lots of people park here?”

    me: “Yes, they do. Does that make it ok?”

    driver: [shrugs, gets in car, drives away]

    Love the sticker idea. What about somehow reclaiming the space as pedestrians (e.g., a lunch-hour sidewalk meeting to discuss the problem)? Maybe an online photo gallery of these illegal parkers? I’ve got my camera ready.

  6. A few weeks ago I was walking along Gloucester between Bank and Kent. I could see a pick up truck parked half on the sidewalk and was debating whether I should go on the road or try to squeeze by on the icy part of the sidewalk. Then the truck drove a couple of meters forward. I thought maybe he was leaving, but he stopped again beside a dumpster making it impossible for me to pass. I muttered not very loudly, “Get off the sidewalk”. The guy starts reversing on the sidewalk and yelling profanities at me. I had my camera, but decided not to take his photo for fear he would actually run me over.
    I like the idea of identifying problem areas and then starting a “Citizens take back the sidewalk” campaign, where we get a bunch of people to stand in problems areas so they can’t park on the sidewalk.

  7. Sometimes I get disoriented when I see a car on a sidewalk, and I end up walking way too close it, scratchy pocket zippers and all.

  8. What about putting up a picture of that car on the lamppost outside where they are stopped? A “name and shame” sort of approach

  9. I think taking pictures with a smartphone and uploading them to a tumblr feed or blog specific to the purpose of illegal parking… or even emailing them directly to the bylaw office… seem like reasonable and legal options.

    Also, is it illegal to walk over a car parked on the sidewalk like that? I believe somewhere in Denmark, they gave pedestrians the right of way, even if it is over a car parked in a normal space.

  10. Charles Bronson would have an ‘etiquette lesson’ for these parkers. Barring vigilante justice, though, I think posting pics on the ‘net has the most effect – giving these people the exposure they don’t want.
    But, if a few eggs were to accidentally fly out of the grocery bag I was holding, I can’t be held responsible.

  11. If a car isn’t impeding sidewalk traffic, I wouldn’t get bent out of shape about it. Yes it’s wrong but it’s wrong on the same scale as jaywalking. If a car is parked on the sidewalk such that it impedes pedestrians, it should get serious attention.

    1. I’m glad someone finally said something like this. I agree, parking on the sidewalk is completely rude especially in the case of the red volvo. The hummer, even if it is a huge stereotype, still allows people to walk around and probably isn’t worth getting all excited about. I say focus on the ones who do it regularly and cause the biggest inconvenience. Let the lawmakers deal with their consequences. If you walk on someone’s car, you’re no better than they are!

  12. Interesting post. And tricky subject matter.

    I think the best first step is to try to talk to the driver. But you have to do it without any passive-aggressive attitude. Many of the examples posted previously (RealGrouchy, Michelle Perry, nosyneighbour) are heavy with attitude and anger. Sure the drivers are in the wrong. But if you want to change behaviour you can’t do it with threats or with attitude. You have to be courteous. Connect with the driver. And offer a perspective and suggestion. Not something you can just fake either. You have to care about them…and get them to care about you. Commands and diatribe only serve to aggravate and make people defensive.

    Walking over the car or vandalizing is amusing. But it is going to cause more trouble than solution. I do like the take-back the sidewalk option. But that would probably just push the issue off the sidewalk and onto the street. Which doesn’t really solve the full problem. Just the pedestrian component of it. The reason these cars are parking on the sidewalk is because there is a no parking/stopping area around where the business they are trying to visit. If the sidewalk is blocked for them, they’ll just park in no parking/stopping zones (like most drivers do). Which solves the problem for passing pedestrians, but not for local businesses and residents. If your committed to fixing a problem, you need to fix the whole problem, and not just the bit that bothers you. Or someone with a different objective may come along and at a later date fix their problem, to your detriment.

    Another idea would be to contact the local merchant that these people are going to. And having them maybe get on board with a re-education process. From a couple of the photos it looks like its right out front of Luciano’s on Preston. He’s a really kind and decent local merchant. He’d probably be open to providing his clientelle with better direction on how to get to his parking lot. It would be in his clientelles best interest so that they don’t get in an accident or hurt someone.

    Taking photos and posting them to a website is interesting…but also problematic. Sure they are photos of events in public. But shaming and embarassing people should be a last resort in life. And posting people’s license plate numbers online should be of concern.

    Another option would be to flyer their car with a polite and generous message. Or a fake parking ticket…that instead warns them in a positive way that they could get a ticket for parking on the sidewalk/in a no-stopping area.

    Negative actions just result in more negative actions. And escalation.

    1. two of the examples used are in front of Luciano’s. And he has a generous parking lot at the back. But Mr Love-a-Duck is too lazy to park there and walk into the store, parking on the sidewalk is so-o-o-0 much (c)loser. I talked to Luciano. He rolls his eyes. They get tickets, he says, and they complain to me, and I tell them there is free parking right there, so don’t park on the street/bus stop/traffic lane. But they dont listen. And they come back again, so he doesn’t lose them as customers. His biggest beef is the plant pool parkers who steal his parking spaces so they can be closer to the door so they dont have to walk so far to get their exercise.

    2. I was actually very polite when I approached the Canada Post driver. I simply asked him next time to not block the sidewalk. He responded with apathy, and I elaborated, again politely, that he was blocking pedestrians from using the sidewalk. It was only when he started getting aggressive with me that I pointed out that I could report him.

      I find that photographing them (preferably when they can see you’re doing it) is more effective. I got someone arrested that way.

      – RG>

    3. I wasn’t rude. I mumbled to myself “Off the sidewalk” and was amazed that he’d even heard me. He was 20 feet away. Even if you think that was rude, it certainly did not deserve what I heard back: You f*&!in cunt, etc.

      My sister used to live in NYC and Toronto and when walking down the sidewalks she would often get hit (or almost hit) by adult cyclists. She would yell: It’s a side WALK not a side bicycle. Now that was rude.

      I drive as well and always make room for pedestrians if I happen to be blocking a crosswalk before I see them.

    4. Sorry, but I have tried the polite approach with people who park in accessible parking spaces who don’t have a Disabled Persons’ Parking Permit displayed, and usually get the response “who are you to bother me?” though not usually so politely related. One woman said it was OK because she worked in employment equity, but she was apparently not disabled, or at least she didn’t have a permit.

      Nine times out of ten, the people who park on the sidewalk or in accessible parking spaces know exactly what they’re doing, don’t care, and should get the fines they deserve.

  13. I guess the question is if 311/bylaw will accept a photograph and issue a ticket. The problem is that the 15-25 minutes it takes to call 311 and get bylaw out will probably be longer than they’re parked there.

    I’m a follow-the-rules-even-when-they’re-dumb kind of guy but stuff like this makes me want to slash their tires.

  14. You don’t necessarily have to call 3-1-1. If you see a parking by-law officer around, you can flag them down and ask them to ticket them. Usually they only do so if there is a complaint, but that complaint can be directly to the officer, it doesn’t have to be through 3-1-1.

    dfg – also remember that the car can still be blocking access for wheelchairs, elderly people with walkers, parents with strollers, etc. So even if you, as a pedestrian, are able to climb over a curb or squeeze past, keep an eye out for clearance on behalf of these others.

    1. Good idea to flag down the Green Hornets, but sadly there is no Tim Hortons around for them to spend their days at.
      Has anyone else ever noticed how they park illegally for hours around the Tims that is in the same building at the new Delta?

  15. I suggest leaning oneself against the driver’s side door. When the driver returns and asks you to move, point out the irony of the situation.

    Plus, no one likes a warm door handle.

  16. There’s always the old let-the-air-out-of-the-tyres move.
    I blogged about how people don’t think the rules apply to them because they are “special”. I guess we do agree that these people are special.

    1. Never let the air out of a vehicle as an act of protest. You never now what might be going on. The car might be stopped due to a mechanical failure. Something serious might be going on that you don’t know about. If something life threatening happens, and their vehicle has been compromised you can easily be held financially and criminally responsible.

      1. Yes, I agree John. In fact, I disagree with negative action altogether and I am sorry I mentioned tyres. I have never done such a thing and I agree that it should never be done.

  17. I’ve enjoyed following the replies to this post all day: thank you everyone. Funnily enough, on the walk home from work I encountered a van partially parked on the sidewalk (Elm, just east of Preston). I’m able-footed, so walking onto the crusty snow to get around it was an option for me.

    I took pictures (available on my Flickr photostream. I didn’t take pictures showing that there was at least another 4 feet behind this van so s/he could have backed up off the sidewalk, nor of the parking available in front of this house. I may Google the company so I can send them a polite email, especially now that I’m not alone in thinking this is a problem.

  18. While I was on my way biking somewhere tonight, I was blocked by a SUV parked partly on the sidewalk, mostly in the no-stopping zone. The vehicle was covered in dust, so I reached out a finger and drew a “no parking” symbol in the dirt.

    Very satisfying.

    – RG>

  19. You could always let the air out of one or more of the tires. Should keep them there long enough for by-law to arrive.

  20. I checked with the City. They cannot accept photos of parking violations. Parking officers have to be there in person to witness and ticket.

    But what you can do is call 311 and ask that a problem area be monitored during a peak period when violations occur.

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