Smart Decision or Illegal Parking Job?

Click it or Ticket

February, 22, 2009, by Jedidiah

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So here’s the dilemma. You own a Smart car and decide that instead of parking parallel to the curb in an on-street parking space, you will back in perpendicular. You take up less room on the curb because the car isn’t as wide as it is long, but your car sticks out slightly more than the car parked next to you. You go into a restaurant for lunch and return to find that you received a ticket for parking in an abnormal fashion. This was the case of the Smart car you see in the above photo parked in downtown Raleigh over the weekend.

Is parking your Smart car perpendicular to the curb illegal? It seems so. Should it be?

When I lived in London back in 2003, Smart cars were parked in any way possible on streets. The big advantage of having a Smart car was being able to park it in the easiest possible way and the local coppers didn’t seem to care. I don’t think I ever saw a ticket on any of the cars, despite being parked perpendicular or otherwise. Seeing Smart cars emerge in Raleigh in the past few years brought back these memories and I found myself talking to lots of colleagues and friends about the ability of Smart cars to park perpendicular to the curb. I guess this doesn’t fly in the Oak City. Or maybe this person was just parking this way to prove a point.

Let’s compare some large SUV dimensions (the largest possible car to fit in a parallel space) with the dimensions of a Smart car and parallel parking space dimensions. A Smart car is 8.8 feet long, 5.1 feet tall and 5.1 feet wide. A Hummer, one of the widest SUV’s on the road, is 6.8 feet wide and 15.8 feet long and Yukons max out around 6.6 feet in width and 16.8 feet in length. A typical parallel parking space is 8 feet wide by 20 feet long and are commonly marked between 7 and 8 feet in width and 22 to 26 feet in length (source). That said, you could fit two Smart cars in a parallel parking space, but if rotated 90 degrees, one would stick out of the space approximately 0.8 feet or 10 inches. This equals approximately a full tire over the edge of the painted edges in a car parked parallel to the curb but slightly off center.

It seems slightly outrageous that 10 inches would be cause for a parking ticket, but it’s a sensitive case and laws are laws for a reason. You be the judge. If we use the above math and comparisons, should parking a Smart car perpendicular to the curb warrant a ticket in downtown Raleigh?

Photo by Bill Gregory

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  • DPK
    02/22 11:52 PM

    Uh, yes they should receive a ticket.  If a smart car is 8.8 feet wide and a parking space is at max 8 feet wide, you are impeding the vehicular right of way by parking perpendicular to the road.

    A full tire length makes a difference believe it or not.  There is still a need for clearance.  Also the car in that picture is parked against the curb so in a way he’s violating two laws.

  • Micah
    02/23 01:04 AM

    Yes, they should have received a ticket.  If the street is marked for parallel (not perpendicular) parking, then that means that both sets of tires on the SAME side of the car must be less than 12 inches from the curb and the vehicle should be centered between the space markings, if any.  Since spaces marked for parallel are so long, then the “Smart” cars should easily be able to park parallel with hardly any parking skills whatsoever.  Also, since there are so few “Smart” cars on our roads today, making special rules for them is a ridiculous proposition.  I notice a lot of posts from Jedidiah and others that start out with “When I lived in/went to London (or Ukraine, dot dot dot)they did blah blah this way and it is SOOO much better than….”  While there are plenty of things that are done better in other countries, and plenty of things worse.  I’m all for adopting, at whatever speed, ways and means from other countries that might suit our problems better than our current systems and policies.  Thing is I notice this comparison a lot between two things that don’t directly translate between the two places; Raleigh is NOTHING like London.  The streets are not a web of thousands of years of spider-web-like, narrow, unplanned streets.  We do not have thousands of sub-sub compact cars on our roads.

  • eg
    02/23 01:21 AM

    The parking system in raleigh reeks too much of the Fetzer-Reagan era…tickets for profit.

    If the car isn’t causing a problem, let them park.  I’ve seen them in Europe parking all over and if they’re not in the way, who cares?

    That’s the problem with our parking system—its a for-profit enterprise that doesn’t care about how to make the citizens’ lives better—its all about making a buck off our everyday living.

  • Micah
    02/23 01:32 AM

    I think it is about a little more than “making a buck off our everyday living.”  It is about enforcement of policies put in place by our (mostly) elected officials.  Once again, someone brings up another place in the world to prove how horrible something in Raleigh is.  If we want people to park “all over” and for no one to care, then we need to work to change the laws.  I get parking tickets fairly often, and every one of them was deserved.  I do, however, think that parking fines should be on strict enterprise practice…That all funds should be used to operate the parking systems in place.  I do not agree wholly with privatized parking systems.

  • Imagine Raleigh
    02/23 02:29 AM

    It is cheaper to buy new plates than pay parking tickets in Raleigh. I’ve been given every sucker ticket Raleigh has to give.

    I think you should be able to park your IPod car however you want. My car is not much bigger but I don’t dare bring it downtown.

    One day it will just dissapear. I am sure I am beyond the boot. Poof!!!

  • Micah
    02/23 02:35 AM

    Well, then move to another city, since apparently Raleigh is the only one that has parking rules and enforcement.  When I moved to Raleigh a meter overlimit ticket was $6.  Now I think it is about $25.  14 years ago parking wasn’t as difficult downtown, so violations were less severe.  Things are different now.  Everyone wants their vibrant and high-traffic downtown and higher parking fines go along with this.  By the way, I got a meter overlimit citation in NYC last September.  I was 10 minutes over on a 15 minute meter.  My ticket was $75.

  • Micah
    02/23 02:38 AM

    I just looked at my overlimit ticket from last month…$15.

  • everything's free!
    02/23 09:03 AM

    Ticket it.  This Smart car driver is not too smart.  And yes…  Tickets are here to help pay for other city expenditures…like the R-Line…  or we can all keep waiting for our check in the mail from the government?  I agree with Micah, if you don’t like it, then move.

  • Clay
    02/23 09:19 AM

    Yes, parking tickets in Raleigh are still relatively cheap compared to a lot of other places. But should that car get a ticket? Yes. They are breaking the law regardless, but then again I might just be willing to show up in court and argue that I wasn’t impeding traffic, especially given the way I have seen people parallel park around here, within 12” of the curb? Try two feet away.

    So what would the person with the Smart car say if someone backed in to their door? Who do they think would be responsible? That’s why bumpers are a great thing.

  • miamiblue
    02/23 09:34 AM

    I personally think the parking enforcement in the downtown vicinity is too lax. I’m used to living in places where you actually have to pay attention to parking signs and come somewhat close to the curb or you are guaranteed to get a ticket. No excuses for not knowing how to properly parallel park.

    The street that I live on in the Glenwood South area is narrow. It only allows parking on one side of the street because of the width of the street. I’ve seen just about everything parking-wise on my street, from people parking with half their vehicle well beyond the parking signs sticking into driveways, to people parking 2 feet away from the curb (this happens regularly), my next door neighbors park on and impede foot traffic on the sidewalk regularly, people parking overnight on the side of the road that does not allow parking. NONE of these people have received tickets.

    To me, all of these things are worse than what that Smart car did, but the rules are the rules, and if you are willing to take a chance with them, knowing what they are, then you deserve a ticket. No my question is, if two MINI coopers (or Smart cars) can fit into a single parallel parking space with no problem without going over any of the lines, should they then receive a ticket? Are there laws stating that only one car may be in a marked parallel spot, even if there is room for another car to fit within the lines?

  • Phil
    02/23 10:08 AM

    Just to add to the parking enforcement mystification:  When I moved here a couple years ago I was startled by how many people parallel park facing the wrong direction along a curb.  I thought maybe NC lacked a law on the subject but reading the driver’s handbook proved otherwise. Usually I don’t care, but I have had to stop in the middle of the road wrongly thinking I’m going the wrong way on a one-way street.  I’d definitely say enforce the law, or else don’t have the law.  Ideally there would be some way to give a warning if the violation isn’t actually threatening someone’s safety.

  • todd
    02/23 10:48 AM

    I believe the parking rules state that both tires must be within 8” of curb, that is with the curb to the right of both front and rear tires? The laws are there to protect us from each other and to ease congestion on city streets. The parking guys are simply enforcing the rules / laws. Simple. Why would you back into a space when you have plenty of room to park correctly?

  • T-Plain
    02/23 10:53 AM

    That looks like a “I parked like this not because I need to but because I can” parking job, despite the fact that they can’t. A Smart car is short, but not shorter than the width of the parking space. Ticket away.

  • bill
    02/23 10:55 AM

    Phil, you can parallel park facing the opposite direction from traffic, as long as there is no yellow line in the street.

  • Andy S.
    02/23 11:20 AM

    While it does at first seem ridiculous that 10 inches would be the cause for a parking ticket, consider the following:

    1) You’ve already established that the widest passenger vehicles (at 6.8 ft.) are still smaller than the narrowest parking spaces (at 7 ft.)  So, it is physically possible for any driver to park their vehicle within any parallel parking space, regardless of the size of their vehicle.  It seems reasonable to presume that this in intentional.

    2) sure, it’s only 10 inches, but only if we’re talking about an 8-foot-wide parking space.  If it’s a 7-foot-wide parking space, the Smart car now extends 22 inches over.  Nearly two feet.  That’s a lot.

    3) Now consider what happens when you have multiple Smart cars parked in this manner on BOTH sides of the road.  It becomes possible for them to consume NEARLY FOUR FEET of the width of the road that is intended for traffic.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for small cars.  Heck, I’m all for ticketing drivers who park oversized vehicles in spaces marked for compact vehicles.  But the simple fact is that, parking perpendicular, smart cars do not fit in a parallel parking space, and when it comes down to it, the point of laws concerning parallel parking are all about keeping parked cars from impeding traffic.  If you’re outside the designated space, you’re impeding traffic, and you deserve a ticket, no matter what you drive.

  • richardfoc
    02/23 11:37 AM

    Why do you people keep getting so many parking tickets? I park downtown all the time and never get tickets. You know why? I park in one of the many, many, many downtown parking decks. And guess what, at night and on weekends they are FREE…except of course on “special occasions” (i.e. Downtown Live, Artsplosure, etc.). I don’t like the “special occasions” provision but I view as the price of doing business…and it’s still cheaper than a parking ticket.

    BTW, the Smart car totally deserved a ticket.

  • Bird
    02/23 01:20 PM

    Gotta follow rules.  Ticket is in order for this driver.  however, maybe there should be an incentive to drive smaller cars by having designated zones for these cars to park as efficiently as possible.  and the city could get more money by ticketing the larger SUV violators who park in those areas.  Better yet - cars under a certain wieght and size can park free, while others pay and park.  I think the meters are an eyesore - get rid of them and use a simple kiosk like other towns…

  • TSnow27604
    02/23 01:24 PM

    I agree with Richard.  There are decks a plenty downtown.  Again, after a recent study it was determined that DT Raleigh has more public parking spaces than DT Chicago.  I too have gotten a ticket and I deserved it.  I would hope that our city officials enforce the laws and I would rather have illegal parkers seen as a source of income than to cut services to those in our community that need them most.  (Social, police, fire,...)

  • Brett Holcomb
    02/23 02:04 PM

    I don’t have a problem with that ticket given the context. The Smart Car looks like it’s sticking out into the road well over a foot more than the adjacent car.

  • Lisa Creech Bledsoe
    02/23 03:41 PM

    What an uproar! I had no idea people would get so upset and argumentative over the ticketing (or not) of a Smart Car.

    Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone got so passionate about, I don’t know, befriending the homeless people in Moore Square?

    Sorry. I’m done being Mom-ly now. Please continue.

  • Aaron
    02/23 04:27 PM

    I sense a lot of xenophobia here.

    But yes, they do deserve a ticket. Harsh, but it’s the law.

  • smitty
    02/23 06:15 PM

    You could just tip it up on its tailgate so the front is sticking up in the air.

  • joy
    02/24 05:44 AM

    What is the point of parking perpendicular here? In case one of the other 5 smart cars in Raleigh needs to park next to you? Otherwise, they’re still taking up an entire parking spot (not to mention some of the road). I think someone is a little too proud of their new smart car..

  • Ann
    02/24 11:44 AM

    On the subject of tickets in general, I was ticketed for parking on a neighborhood street where there were no “no parking” signs in sight. So I took photographs to prove it and submitted an appeal form. Of course, you have to pay your ticket up front and then wait to hear further notice on your appeal. It’s been months and I’m still waiting.

  • Micah
    02/24 01:15 PM

    Ann, You will probably lose your appeal, especially if it was in the neighborhoods between Wade Avenue and Hillsborough Street.  You should have heard from them by now. I would call to check up.

  • Ann
    02/24 03:40 PM

    Yep, that’s where I got the ticket. As I was sealing the envelope with the check in it, I figured that was the end of it, even though to me there was no question that I didn’t deserve the ticket.

  • neal2zod
    02/26 10:16 AM

    let’s be honest here - this wasn’t a smart decision or an attempt to help one more driver squeeze into a space. it was a guy being pleased with himself, that’s all. And to say he shouldn’t be ticketed over “just 10 inches” is kinda ridiculous. 10 inches past the line is plenty - just ask anyone who’s had a rearview mirror sideswiped off.

  • this is your wonderland
    02/28 01:39 PM

    what if the Smart Car parked at an angle like everyone used to do on Fayetteville Street? Would it be okay then? Like <a href=“”>?

    Oh nevermind, the sidewalks are extra wide. Poor city planning….

  • this is your wonderland
    02/28 01:40 PM

    oops, i guess HTML doesn’t work for commenting.

    see picture here:

  • Micah
    02/28 02:52 PM

    Perpendicular and angle parking will fit more cars in, but you are correct that the road must be much wider.  Parking this way is more dangerous on high traffic (and especially high speed) roads because it is far more difficult to see oncoming traffic when it comes time to pull out.  This problem is made much worse by larger SUV’s and vans.  You simply cannot see what is coming down the street if there is a large vehicle parked with 5 or so spaces to your right.  Also, head-in perpendicular or angle parking is a nightmare for cyclists.  It is very dangerous.

  • WiseOne
    03/02 01:16 PM

    I vote for ticket…the smartest car doesn’t even drive downtown. Well, I am a little bit bored at home on this snowday, so I have some comments (not opinions) about this great thread.
    Motorcycle parking is allowed perp to the curb (some choppers are 8’ long)...actually recommended. What about the three wheeled cars, what are their parking parameters? I believe in London you have to buy your way into the ‘city’ (downtown) area and then pay too much to park. And some cities in Europe don’t let cars in at all in certain places (e.g. Granada, Spain.) Yes, I agree Raleigh has loads of ample parking via the decks and the tickets are dirt cheap compared to our quality of life here in the triangle. Love the comments!

  • Howard Weissman, RA
    01/25 12:46 PM

    The Institute for Building technology and Safety is a 501 (c)(3) Not-for-Profit created to fexpedite governace.  We have an Advisory Board appointeed by NACo, NGA, ICMA, CSG, and NLC.

    I am currently finalizing a “white” paper on parking and would greating appreciate approval to include an except from the article dealing with the sizes of vehicles, and the smart car parking photo to illustrate the merits of smaller car parking.  Can you assist me?

    Howard Weissman

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