North American Parking Signs
September 12, 2004 12:04 AM   Subscribe

I've tried googling for help on this but to no avail.

Help me understand North American parking signs better (inside is more).

I don't usually parallel park and don't recall driver's ed covering this topic in detail (perhaps it was obvious to everyone else), so perhaps you can help me out.

No Parking sigs have always confused me. Clearly, they mean you're not supposed to park somewhere. But where?

The when is usually clear, ex: No parking M-F 7 pm - 9 pm.

But the where isn't, at least to me.

The arrows, what do they mean? Are they designating a side of the road? What about when there's only one? Or none?

What section of road do no parking signs apply to, before or after the sign? To the next sign, or intersection, or what?

Here's some samples of signs.

posted by shepd to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Many states have driving regulations (including signs) available online. Here's Massachusetts. Here's New York's, with a special section on parallel parking.

Here's a comprehensive list of all states that offer such manuals.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:14 AM on September 12, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks Civil_Disobedient, but I'm still confused. :-S

Those manuals all state you don't park where there's a no parking sign. That's obvious. But they don't designate how the "no parking" is enforced. Is it before the sign? After it? And the arrows.

:-( Oh well. Maybe I'm confusing the issue too much. Or perhaps I should take a picture of a street that makes no sense and someone could explain it.
posted by shepd at 12:41 AM on September 12, 2004

typically, (in texas) those signs apply to a specific section of the curb, denoted by either a) the presence of some special "no parking zone" or b) the presence of other parking siqns.

Meaning, if you see a "no parking zone" sign, it usually applies to an entire section of curb until you see parking meters surrounding it, or the no parking zone will be marked off with some kind of special paint symbols like firezone or loading zone.

I think that's the main point of your question, "where do you park around no parking zones." Typically, there will be specific sections set up to let you know exactly where and where not you can park.
posted by bob sarabia at 12:54 AM on September 12, 2004

This is a Usenet thread about parking in San Francisco.

Arrows designate where the sign applies to. If a parking restriction sign has no arrows, it applies to the entire section of unbroken curb on both sides of the sign, or the entire block, depending on the municipality.
posted by calwatch at 1:43 AM on September 12, 2004

shepd, don't feel too bad about the sign. I once got a parking ticket because the cop didn't understand the sign.

In michigan at least, if the sign has only one arrow, you cannot park on the side of the sign the arrow points, applying to the section of unbroken curb.
posted by Apoch at 4:42 AM on September 12, 2004

I agree that the signs are often confusing. No Parking (Anywhere On This Street. Yes. You.) signs are usually clear because there are a bunch of them in a row so you can't miss them. I usually think I'm safe parking in the vicinity of a no parking sign with an arrow pointing somewhere as long as I'm in front of the sign and the arrow isn't pointing in my direction (which it probably isn't since the arrows I've seen always point to the right.) I figure, how am I supposed to obey traffic signs I can't see, if the sign isn't visible to me when I'm sitting in the driver's seat and looking forward?
posted by emelenjr at 7:38 AM on September 12, 2004

they don't designate how the "no parking" is enforced. Is it before the sign? After it?

That's what the arrows are telling you.

< ------------>

Means "No parking before or after this sign, on this side of the road."


With the usual caveats about not blocking driveways, fire hydrants, etc.
Means "You can park before this sign on this side of the road, but not after it."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:07 AM on September 12, 2004

My experience is that the arrows usually point at a partner sign, meaning No Parking between signs.

Be assured, European signs are as confusing to me, an American, as American signs are to you.
posted by Goofyy at 8:08 AM on September 12, 2004

I meant,


Means "You can park before this sign on this side of the road, but not after it."

With the usual caveats about not blocking driveways, fire hydrants, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:09 AM on September 12, 2004

As a general rule, in New England anyhow, parking signs apply to the side of the road they're on and have nothing to do with the other side of the road. In the absence of any arrows or other indicators, I assume that the sign refers to the entire BLOCK the sign is on [i.e. until the next cross street] though this may be overkill. The most baffling to me and my poor sense of direction, is the signs that just say "No Parking East of Here" which causes me to often have to look to the sky or consult a compass. In cities, parking rules are often supplanted with curb markings that drive the point home [yellow for "sometimes you are not supposed to park here" and red for "you can never park here"]

If you're on a really heavily parked-in road and you see a totally empty space, good rule of thumb is to try to think "huh, why would that space be empty?" and go through the normal things: hydrant, driveway, bus stop, loading zone, street cleaning, close to corner, alleyway etc before assuming "wow, this must just be my lucky day!"
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 AM on September 12, 2004

I'm interested in how strictly this "before and after" is interpreted. For instance, the other day, I saw a vehicle that was parked very close to a no parking arrow sign. The front wheels and back wheels were in the clear, but the hood of the car extended past the no parking side of the sign.

I happened to notice a meter cop walking down the street ticketing cars, and waited to see what she did. She looked at the car, then at the sign, then walked on by.

Could it be a little like tag? As long as some part of the car is on base, that's all that matters? Can you park a pickup truck just on the bad side of a sign, then open the tailgate to get legal again?

Anyone fought tickets on these grounds? What's the cutoff point?
posted by Jeff Howard at 9:02 AM on September 12, 2004

I especially like time-sensitive "No Parking" signs.

Like - "No parking on this side of the street M-F between the hours of 7 and 9 PM, and no parking between the hours of 11 and 12 AM on Thursdays."

When I was living in Baltimore, I got my car towed down to the city pound at least three times due to signs like that.
posted by troutfishing at 9:47 AM on September 12, 2004

We're struggling with the "No parking on this side of the street the first Wednesday/Tuesday/Thursday of every month for street cleaning" signs. It's a silent mind game... What day is it? Is it the first of the month? It's the first Tuesday of the month, but the second week of the month so does it count?

Very confusing.
posted by jennyb at 10:04 AM on September 12, 2004

For instance, the other day, I saw a vehicle that was parked very close to a no parking arrow sign. The front wheels and back wheels were in the clear, but the hood of the car extended past the no parking side of the sign.

I've had dozens of conversations with metermaids in Boston, as well as a few employees at the Boston Tow Lot on Frontage Rd. (goddamn it to hell). The rules for No Parking signs are basically what everyone has said here. Usually there are other clues to help you out -- for instance, the curb is frequently painted a color (red or yellow, usually) where the "no parking" is meant to apply to. Or there will be two signs, with arrows pointing at each other -- don't park in between them.

Very, very rarely you'll find a lone "No Parking" sign on a block. Very rarely. In which case, I always follow the "15 feet" rule. When you take driver's ed. in school, they teach you the 15-feet rule, which is basically, stay 15 feet away from STOP signs, fire hydrants, etc. If you see a No Parking sign, but there are meters at the other end of the block, that means, "We want you to pay if you wish to park on this block. If you park anywhere where there's no meter, it's to be assumed that you will get a ticket."

In Boston, things were a bit different. Given the scant parking availability, everyone basically followed the principal of "Use Your Fucking Head." Which goes something like this: you can park near a hydrant, but give enough room for, say, a fireman to use the damned thing. With stop signs/end of blocks, don't block off the sidewalk ramp for handicapped people. That's a BIG no-no.

For signs that apply in one direction, the rule of thumb given to me by metermaids was, "Keep your wheels behind the sign."

It's confusing, and many times arbitrary. Welcome to the U.S. Like I said before, you'll do well for yourself if you just UYFH.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:31 AM on September 12, 2004

Another thing that wasn't mentioned is that in town, they're often much more strict about parking violations than they would be in the suburbs. About the only time you'll get in trouble in the suburbs is if you're blocking something, like a bus stop, fire hydrant, or someone's driveway.

In the city, look at the sign and then look at the curb and streets. Many cities mark out the parking spots, esp. if there's meters. They'll mark these spots with white lines in most cases.

Loading Zones (i.e. No Parking, Loading Zone, M-F 6am-6pm) or Bus zones (No Parking, in most cases) will usually be marked with yellow lines or a yellow curb. That means that a vehicle can be there sometimes, but you may not be allowed to be there.
Fire hydrants may be marked with yellow or red curbs depending on where you are. Here they're sometimes yellow and sometimes red. Don't park there, no matter what.

Fire Zones will be marked by a red curb and are never available for parking.

Handicapped spots will be marked with a blue curb. Don't park there without a handicapped permit.

If the area of the street is marked with multiple diagonal lines, don't park there.

One thing that's becoming more common in cities is parking kiosks instead of meters. There will be one kiosk per block and you'll pay there and receive a receipt or sticker, which you put in your window or on your dash.

I think everyone else covered the 'no parking' arrows... those are more common in residential areas.

Oh, and as for the 'no paring on x day, but parking on y day' ... since I started parking a lot downtown due to my new job, I've started keeping one of those tiny calendars insurance agents give out stuck to my dashboard. Much cheaper and easier than guessing...
posted by SpecialK at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2004

I love those low-tech solutions. They are always the best.
posted by troutfishing at 6:12 AM on September 13, 2004

Response by poster: Just want to say thanks! Big help guys!
posted by shepd at 3:27 PM on September 13, 2004

« Older Home Security   |   In iTunes, why do songs I uncheck not play during... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.