Is It Legal To Park Like This? If Not, Should It Be?

by Prince Of Petworth — May 22, 2012 at 11:00 am 59 Comments

“Dear PoPVille,

I passed a car2go parked nose in on T Street between 16th and New Hampshire this past Sunday morning. While I applaud the great use of curb space, I’m wondering if it’s legal to park smartcars like this. I thought they had to be parked parallel to the sidewalk as any other car.”

  • Anonymous

    lol that is actually why Smart cars were made, you can park two like that in a single parallel parking spot. That is how they park them all over Europe. In Rome I saw them that way all over the place, really saves room and parking!

    • houseintherear

      According to my brother who lives in Germany, the Smarts there are 5 inches shorter than the American version. They are not legally allowed to park front to curb in the US, but they are in Europe. I could research this further, but my brother is a knowitall so I’m sure he’s right. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        +1. It is most certainly illegal to park it like that in DC.

      • Brian

        Europe has different bumper regulations than the US (ours are stricter), so the cars there tend to be slightly shorter. The difference between the two cars is probably 5 cm, though–not 5″, since the smart is so small already, it doesn’t have much crash space to give up for tight EuroNCAP standards.

        And to answer the question definitively: yes, this kind of parking is illegal not only in DC, but everywhere in the US. In Europe, there are a lot of “cars” (read: small vehicles exempted from regular automotive regulations due to a variety of reasons) that can park like this. In the US, the smart fortwo is the only such vehicle this short, and it wasn’t able to get an exemption anywhere for perpendicular parking in parallel spaces.

        • houseintherear

          Ah, I bet you’re right… I’m prone to thinking in inches after all these years being an Amurican!

    • me

      Yes, but in Rome, people also park and drive on sidewalks and other areas that they’re not supposed to.

      • HAH love it…because it’s true!

        • zrc

          I am in Tuscany right now (gotta love a Vodafone micro sim card and an iPad….so easy), and it’s true; parking is true benevolent anarchy. As long as it doesn’t *completely* block the roadway, it’s fair game. Park as you please!

    • am2o

      No one parks legally in Roma. Don’t take it as legal because someone did it.

  • did you know

    that it is illegal to front into a parallel parking space in dc?

    based on that fact, i think this has to be illegal.

    though i don’t think it should be. the bumper of the car fronting in is not that far from the doors of the cars parked parallel.

    we ought to encourage more cars to park like this, its more efficient.

  • It seems as if it is sticking out into the street just far enough to make people riding their bicycles in traffic have to deal with it. Also on tight two way streets this would be an issue.

    • Anonymous

      It is just the angle of the picture. A quick google search shows a Smart Car is 61 inches long (that is the way it is parked) and a Honda Civic is between 69 and 73 inches wide (that is the way they are parked) depending on model. So you can see facts prove this is a better way of parking smart cars and if allowed would reduce emissions in the nations capital.

      (Daily truth/snark) Of course since Smart is a non-life-long-resident driver car in DC it will be ticketed.

      • Well if it doesn’t stick out then I’m all for it!

      • umm

        I don’t think this is correct. The smart car is 106.1 inches in length. So it is far longer than the average car is wide. That said, it seems like a good usage of space. Like others, I am curious MPD’s take on it.

        • _

          106.1 inches is way too long to be parked this way… For reference, an Escalade is 79 inches wide.

      • Anonymous

        A Smart fortwo is 61 inches wide, and 106 inches long. It’s sticking out a couple feet more into the road than a “normal” car parallel parked.

      • svi

        how the hell would it save on emissions?

    • Anonymous

      Unless the car is sticking out into a specifically-designated bike lane, F the people riding their bikes. I’d much rather see Smart cars parked like this in spaces that couldn’t otherwise accomodate a car than have them take up a full-size space elsewhere on the block.

  • Dartagnan

    Smart cars were designed for this in Europe, but (@houseintherear – thats correct) the American Smart cars are slighly longer. Iv’e drven one in Europe and the seat headbacks practically touch the back windscreen! Here they were designed to have a little trunk room.

    • I believe they had to modify the design to comply with U.S. safety standards.

      (Though for all I know, there might have been additional, non-safety-related changes.)

  • JayDC

    If it is sticking out too much, it could make it VERY difficult for the car parked next to it to get out!

    But yeah, I don’t know of any exceptions to the parking laws for Smart Cars

    • Car2Go (which is the car share company that owns these blue/white smart cars) already has an agreement with the city that allows them to have extended parking at meters without feeding the meter. It wouldn’t surprise me if they had a similar deal with this parking situation.

      • Steve S

        As a member, I never saw anything in their information saying you could (or couldn’t) park like this. My assumption is that you can’t. Wish that wasn’t the case!

  • Anonymous

    I’m all for it but I think you should only be able to back them in as reversing into the street is dangerous.

  • Look at the silver Prius behind it. Now try to picture if that Prius arrived to park in that space after the car parked before exited. I think it would be a pain in the ass to back/parallel park in that space while trying to negotiate your way around the Car2go. (even pulling out of the spot)

    • Kam

      If a car parked in front of me like that, I would be pissed. I would be extra pissed if I couldn’t back up at all. You could never get out of that or in it for that matter if it is even the slightest bit tight. And I am a good parrallel parker if I say so myself.

  • Mike

    If it isn’t illegal, it should be. Look how much it sticks out into the roadway.

  • I’d guess this is not legal. There is some catch-all violation for “Parking Against the Flow of Traffic” that is probably being violated here.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe the zone 9 pass also allows you to park whatever the Fing way you want to.

  • I don’t know if it’s illegal, but parking this way *is* against Car2Go rules:

    “Vehicles parked in curbside spaces must be parallel parked unless the location specifically requires perpendicular or angle parking.”

    Source: http://www.car2go.com/washingtondc/en/files/car2go_washingtondc_parking.pdf

  • md86

    According to Car2Go’s website you aren’t allowed to park like that. See bottom of the page: http://www.car2go.com/washingtondc/en/files/car2go_washingtondc_parking.pdf

    • Great minds think alike, md86. 🙂

    • Heh… fair point—though Car2Go’s rules are one thing, whether or not it’s *legal* is a different question IMO.

  • Smart cars were originally designed to be parked this way, but everything I have read says that this way of parking is illegal pretty much everywhere in the USA.

  • Thor

    I never really saw the point in having a SmartCar in the US. For the same price you can get a real car with 4 seats, trunk space, better mileage and only a few inches longer. So it’s not really saving you space unless you park like this which is clearly illegal.

    • Anonymous

      Too true. These “Smart” Cars, in US trim, get really bad fuel economy for their size. The only real reason for owning one around here would be to fit into tight parking spots.

    • Anon

      Agreed. I just don’t get the point of Cars2Go–I would think the very reason you’d want a by-the-hour car is to do things like get groceries, go to Costco, big shopping trip, etc, in which case a Smart Car is useless. ZipCar’s vehicles makes much more sense.

      • For me, Car2Go and ZipCar both make sense. If I’m out after Metrorail and Metrobus are no longer running, there are many times I’d rather just grab a Car2Go than take a cab. It’s also sometimes easier to find one than a cab. ZipCar is for planned trips. I think they supplement each other well.

        • Bargonian

          Also incredibly useful if you CaBi one way and then it starts raining…

    • Brian

      They’re also garbage to drive–there’s a reason Consumer Reports has them as their lowest-rated vehicle of any new car.

      Car2Go is basically keeping the smart brand alive in the US.

      • Brian… I’m on my second smart…. and this one is a convertible. Inexpensive and it is actually fun to drive and very easy to park…which is why it’s a great DC car.

  • Gloomingdale

    Someone should start a Smart cars with parking tickets blog.

  • Anonymous

    I used car2go for the first time yesterday. First attempt, failed, wasted 15 minutes. Second attempt, successfully got from point A to point B, but didn’t realize it was on me to not park in a rush hour zone and also didn’t realize I had to swipe upon ending so was charged for a full day instead of a 1/2 hour. The good news – their customer support center is great, and they waived the failed 15 minute fee, only charged me for my drive time for round 2, and put the car back in service so I could move it out of the tow zone before ticket was written. Made it back home in under 10 minutes. So happy with it, I told my wife, and she then used it for the first time, saving her like $10 in cab fare for her normal work to home commute. Car2Go is cool. Wish DC government would pony up some $$ so we could have a robust Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure, so companies like Car2Go could give us an EV fleet instead of gasoline.

    • Brian

      An announcement for an EV charging network for DC is coming before the end of the year.

  • shawguy

    I’ll make the obvious note here that nobody else seems to have mentioned about why this is a REALLY BAD idea… Cars have bumpers on the front and the back because at least in DC, it seems like the majority of drivers use the “Helen Keller” method of parallel parking where they keep going until they “tap” the car in front and behind.

    Cars don’t suffer much damage other than knicked paint when that happens because bumpers, as the name implies, are designed to withstand bumping. Bump into the side of a Smart Car, however, and you’re going right into the very costly and very fragile sheet metal on the sides.

    A “love tap” against the door by a tall SUV can do a grand in damage in two seconds….

    • Hahaha, having driven around in a few smart cars I think an SUV “love bump” might roll the tiny vehicle right over. What kind of parking violation would that be??? 😀

  • Here’s what it looks like from the back end if someone parks like this next to a bike lane:


    • Anonymous

      Oh hell no. I was all for this idea, but this really shows that it’s terrible.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like someone left a bigass roller skate in the street!

  • In DC, _all_ vehicles (including motorcycles and scooters!) are to be parked parallel to the curb unless otherwise noted (i.e. in diagonal or perpendicular parking areas). This driver would also be backing out into traffic which is illegal. And hopefully noone parks behind that Prius because it will have a wicked hard time getting out around the back of the smart car.

  • While I like any idea that increases parking i have to admit this car sticks out into the Drive/Bike lane too far. As mentioned it would increase the difficulty of the parallel parked vehicle with its nose to the SMART car to exit the parking space and reduce visibility.
    Maybe PoP could start a string on:
    1. Drivers that don’t know how to parallel park and take 1.5 spaces reducing the amount of available parking
    2. Drivers that do not pull up to a sign at the beginning or end of a block/driveway/etc. effectively reducing the amount of available parking

    (if you don’t know how to parallel park leave your car in your own neighborhood and take metro)

    3. Eliminating no parking at entrances. WHY? I have never seen a cab pull into one of these spaces and to be quite frank isn’t every building an entrance? Anyone know what the law is on what qualifies as an “entrance”?

    • Thor

      Speaking of 3. Eliminating no parking at entrances. I’ve been thinking about this for almost a year since I started biking down the 7th St to L’Enfant Plaza.
      After crossing Constitution Ave 7th st has No Parking during rush hour (on the right side in the AM and left side in the PM) but those right lanes are never used even at the peak of rush hour. Why not make that space available for parking during the rush hour to generate much needed cash for the city? I wish there was a way to suggest this to the city council or the mayor.

  • Kam
  • If I were the car on the drivers door side – I’d pull up really close to the smart car and sit there for a week – good luck getting in an out of that.
    Even in Europe – this is what makes this type of parking a bit rediculous.
    For those that think the Italians park without rules – try any former Soviet country – oligarchs in A8Ls and S500s regularly takeover sidewalks to they can park.

    • Identified

      No need to go to the Soviet block, heck, try any NYC cop’s personal vehicle parked near they popo station.

  • Anonymous

    and when the car in front of you and behind leave and two more park around you and leave you now space to open a door, do you climb through the tiny trunk and over the seats?

  • Milton Noones

    I’ve always wanted to do that with the old Fiat 500, but I guess the smart car does the trick as well.

  • jenster8dc

    Is Mr. Bean in town?


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