Do we all need to go back to kindergarten?

By Richard White, March 6, 2014

Learning to share is a key lesson we are all supposed to learn in kindergarten.  Did many of us miss it? Do some of us need a “do over?”  Specifically, why can’t we learn to share the parking in front of our houses?  Seems to me every day the number of free parking spots in Calgary’s inner city communities dwindles. 

I pride myself in being able to find a 2-hr parking spot wherever I go – downtown, Beltline and inner city - whenever.  Yes sometimes I have to walk five or ten minutes, but I don’t mind as often I discover something interesting flaneuring along the way and it’s just good active living. 

My “tipping point” was arriving recently at Bodhi Tree yoga on 14th St. and 8th Ave NW and finding six, 2-hour parking stalls on 8th Avenue have now become permit only.   The parking spaces are located at the side of a corner house so the homeowner already has street parking in-front on 15th Street. Why do the home owners need six more on 8th Avenue?

Over the past 10 years, I have watched as gradually most of the street parking in the area has become paid or permit parking.  First it was the residents along 15th and 16th Street that converted their street parking from 2-hour parking to permit. Then the seniors’ home on 8th Street converted their 15th Street parking in permit parking, followed by the Calgary Parking Authority creating paid parking around the old Grace Hospital and Hillhurst School.  I wouldn’t mind if the permit parking spots were used, but they sit empty most of the time.  That is just selfish.

This is the corner where the 8th Ave street parking has been converted from 2-hour to permit.  These two cars are parked illegally, I expect they didn't realize the signage had changed. 

This is the corner where the 8th Ave street parking has been converted from 2-hour to permit.  These two cars are parked illegally, I expect they didn't realize the signage had changed. 

This is the Seniors' complex that had the 15th street parking changed from 2-hour, to no parking except for the one handicapped parking spot which makes sense. 

This is the Seniors' complex that had the 15th street parking changed from 2-hour, to no parking except for the one handicapped parking spot which makes sense. 

Though there is some off-street visitor parking for restaurant, yoga studio, and various offices in the 8th Ave/14th St condo complex, it is very awkward to get in and out of given the access is directly off the busy 14th Street.

For inner-city communities to thrive and become more walkable, we need to encourage more everyday amenities like cafes, pubs, restaurants, hair salons, dry cleaners, yoga studios, florist, daycares and medical offices to locate in these communities.  We also must recognize small businesses can’t survive on walk-in, transit and cycling traffic only; there needs to be some street parking for those who arrive by car.  To ask small businesses to provide parking on site, or cash-in-lieu is not realistic or affordable.  We need to learn to share the abundant street parking that already exists which, for much of the time sits empty day and night, weekdays and weekends. 

Why are we so selfish that we want to reserve the parking in front of our house for just our private use?  In kindergarten we are supposed to learn how to share. Perhaps we all need to go back for a refresher class, “Sharing 101.”

It is not just me who feels this way.  A colleague shared with me a story last week, about her Mount Pleasant neighbours who successfully lobbied to have their street parking changed to permit only.  She had no say in the change; if the majority wants to have permit parking then they get permit parking. 

The back story to this is a 4th Street NW restaurant on the corner that had become very popular for its good food and live music resulting in more cars parking on their street and staying longer. Is this another case of NIMBYism? Yes we want to have more community amenities, just not next to ME!

This is the Mount Pleasant street which will be limited to permit parking only.  As you can see there is lots of room to share the street parking.  Yes maybe you won't get the spot right in front of your house - the walk will do you good (or maybe you can clean out the garage in the alley and use it to park your car rather than store your junk).

And yes, I do practice what I preach.  We have a mid-block, busy day care (with no street parking) across the street from our home where 50 or so parents arrive twice a day, every weekday to drop off and pick up their kids. As we live on a cul-de-sac, it means everyone has to turn around mid-block to get out.  Yes, some days it is gridlock on our little street (and knock on wood, to our knowledge there has never been an accident in over 20 years). We even have some parents who drop off their kids, park all day and cycle into work.

The funky daycare fence is on the right and the row of staff cars parked along the street is upper left.  Note there is no parking in front of the daycare to allow for drop-off during the day. 

Starting about 7 am and 4 pm the cars arrive for the Daycare Ballet. You can see the white truck is parked on the berm of the park, the white SUV is backing into the spot in front of the daycare. While another SUV is parking in front of our house. 

Here you can seethe  red car blocking the lane and two cars edging past each other.  All the while there are parents with kids crossing the street and alley.  It is chaos sometimes, but just for a few hours and then the ballet is over.  Personally, I love to watch the parents pick-up the kids, often in the summer they will run to the playground and play before going home.  One day had over 20 parents and kids playing tag in the park, some were neighbour kids some from the daycare, it didn't matter we just all had fun.  Community is about sharing, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Here you can seethe  red car blocking the lane and two cars edging past each other.  All the while there are parents with kids crossing the street and alley.  It is chaos sometimes, but just for a few hours and then the ballet is over.  Personally, I love to watch the parents pick-up the kids, often in the summer they will run to the playground and play before going home.  One day had over 20 parents and kids playing tag in the park, some were neighbour kids some from the daycare, it didn't matter we just all had fun.  Community is about sharing, the good, the bad and the ugly. 

Luckily, as we have a park across the street (meaning fewer houses) this allows for extra parking and turning around space.  We have chatted with the neighbours and while all are frustrated sometimes with the traffic and parking, we have decided (so far) to share the road and parking – no 2-hour limit, no permit parking only.

In some cases it is not just about “foreigners” parking in front of your house that gets people upset, I have heard about streets where it gets nasty if a neighbour parks in front of your house instead of theirs.  For a fun and informative blog on this issue, check out “Who parked in my spot?”

Last Word

Why can’t we all learn to just get along?  Seems like everywhere I turn our society is become more divisive and nasty - “inner city vs. suburb needs,” “cyclists vs. drivers,” “developers vs. neighbours,” “city vs. provincial leaders” “provincial vs. federal government leaders” - need I go on?  Is this the net result of the “what’s in it for me?” culture that has been fostered for several generations?  I say “everyone back to kindergarten!”

If you like this blog, you might like:

Why can't we share the road?

Building a better bike rack.

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