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Snow Law: Who Has the Right to the Parking Spot You Dug Out?


In the D.C.-area where I'm located, everything -- politics; the suckitude of the Redskins, Wizards and Nationals; you name it -- has taken a back seat to the record three feet of snow that the Snowpocalypse of 2010 has inflicted upon our city this week. As such, an article on Tuesday in The Washington Post did a great job of highlighting perhaps the most contentious issue of the week:

"If you dig your car out from its frozen tomb, do you then own that parking spot until the sun melts open the rest of the curbside space?"

The short answer is that here in D.C., where the winters are usually mild, we don't really have a definitive law, practice or "snow etiquette" to govern the situation. Cold-weather cities like Boston, however, have gone so far as to enact laws on the subject. The Post reports that in Boston, "a city law says that if you dig out your car in a snow emergency, a lawn chair or trash can renders the spot yours for at least two days while you're away at work."

In Chicago, the article adds, citizens cannot legally block a parking spot but even city officials acknowledge an "informal rule of dibs" in favor of the person who has dug out the spot. According to the Post, the "dibs" system appears to have prevailed this week in D.C., with some Boston-style markers such as "lawn chairs, recycling bins, orange cones, a mattress, even two bar stools with a Swiffer on top" being used to try to save cleared spots.

As anyone who has ever dug a car out of three feet of snow will attest, the stakes are high when it comes to protecting a spot. The Post reports that after huge storms in 1996 and 2000, people were killed in New York and Philadelphia, respectively, following disputes over cleared spots. And in South Boston, assaults, slashed tires and other cases of vandalism have resulted after people were perceived to have broken the parking spot code.

Posted by Bruce Carton on February 11, 2010 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)


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