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Want Free Parking? Get Pregnant

By John Van Horn

In the UK, a very successful firm in Cambridge, a city of 120,000 north of London, asked for approval to turn a concrete slab in the lot next to it into a parking facility for its employees. The slab had been there since the World War II and seemingly had no other useful purpose. They were told no.
Seems the local greens don’t want people driving into the city, and this is a way to keep them out. Yep – it’s going to do that, in spades. The high-tech company which makes specialized software has attempted to talk its staff into cycling but as the CEO put it in a Cambridge News report:
“The council is not at all helpful when it comes to parking. We have done everything we can to encourage [our] people to cycle, but it is so expensive to live in Cambridge that many of them have to come in by car.
“But the council will not do us any favors.”
The CEO added: “If we moved to a new location in Cambridge, it would be no better as new parking restrictions would give us even less space. We have reached the point where for our next project we will have to look at Korea, India or China. It’s a sad reality.”
As reader Charles pointed out: “I do not know anything about the tax structure in the UK, but I am sure that losing the expansion of a business like this is keeping a ton of tax revenue out of the General Fund. …”
I know that this little move will cost Cambridge and the UK a lot of money, not only in rates (property taxes) but also in income tax, sales tax and the like.
Frankly, I sort of like the idea of charging for parking and allowing the market to run its course. But I’m not sure that in the face of the current economic climate, social engineering like this is the way to go.
***
A crew is working on the front of our office building, resurfacing the framework, and painting and generally cleaning up the place. They parked their truck in front, and while they were up on the ladder, the parking police came by and gave them a ticket.
The irony is that the “no parking” sign was installed by the building owners because the city refused to do so. Folks were parking in front and causing all sorts of havoc with traffic. The work crew told me that they had a conversation with the enforcement officer, and she told them that if that were true, the building owners could be cited for putting up an improper sign.
We are in an industrial area, with many of the buildings having no sidewalks or curbs. Since we are near the airport, car rental holding lots are all over, and a car carrier arrives almost daily to drop off and pick up cars.
As I was coming back from lunch, I watched the enforcement officer walk up to a car that had just been off-loaded and was sitting on the street, still running but with no driver. She had her ticket writer out and was entering data. She had just come from nailing the crew at my office.
Ours is a “seedy backwater near LAX,” to quote Forbes when it was describing the headquarters location of our neighbor Neutrogena. There is little elegance, but it is workable, has a number of manufacturing plants, and is an area that employs hundreds of people. The most elegant structure is a WallyPark, which is right next door to us.
Parking is a challenge at best, and some semi driver is always jockeying for position so he can load or unload his cargo. We all just slowly move around the street, dodging trucks and vans, and make it safely to work.
In both of these parking enforcement cases, the vehicles in question were part of the normal scene in the area. Commerce taking care of commerce. It’s no wonder that parking is on the top of everyone’s s#@t list. Common sense says that those citations should not have been written.
And I will tell you, when I saw the officer heading for that car just off-loaded from a carrier, I actually saw a gleam in her eye: “By golly, I nailed one.” The problem is that the driver and the construction crew saw that gleam, too.
***
Pregnancy is not a handicap. However, I understand that in the later trimesters, many women have problems getting around, and frankly, I think they deserve preferential parking. Shopping centers and the like should install spaces right next to the front door, with little storks on the signs, and women who are with child should be able to park there. But not for free. Unless everyone else parks for free.
Just like people with physical disabilities who need access. Super – provide large spaces near the door. But not for free.
Why is this so hard to understand? The reason that handicapped parking placards are abused is because they allow people to park for free.
Ask a disabled person the question: “If I could guarantee that you would have a place to park that was easy, wide and close in or if I could simply say that you could park for free, which would you choose?” I would be amazed if any disabled person would prefer free over a handicapped parking space.
Let’s discuss pregnancy. OK , not how you get pregnant – we all know it’s the water, or usually what the water is mixed with at the bar …
But say you are now great with child. You may already have a few young ones at home or in the back seat, you can barely reach the steering wheel, and you have three more months of this.
The supermarket, Costco, Walmart or Rite Aid has a couple of spaces right up front, a little wider than the rest. They are marked with cute little storks. We all know what that means. You park there, you shop, and you leave. I guarantee that you aren’t going to stay any longer than you have to. What you want is to get home and take off your shoes and sit down.
We need no special “doctor’s notes.” I know how to tell if you are pregnant. If you aren’t “showing,” you may need something akin to a temporary handicapped sticker, but my guess is that most women who are in that condition don’t need the special space. There doesn’t have to be a bureaucracy nor a set of laws. Just a sign.
First of all, no man would want to be seen parking there. Second, any woman who has been pregnant would not take that space if she weren’t. She knows what you are going through. Third, as I noted above, you aren’t going to stay any longer than necessary. It’s self-policing.
Many shopping centers have these spaces. They work great. People smile when they see the storks. All is right with the world.
New York and Los Angeles and the rest of the cities that are thinking about “free” parking for pregnant woman and passing ordinances and the like merely need to send nice letters to shopping centers recommending that they reserve a few spaces for women who are with child.
I’ll bet that they will do it and will get a lot more business because of it. Even people who aren’t pregnant or who will never be pregnant will feel good about what the shopping centers are doing. You can’t see a pregnant woman without thinking positive thoughts. And that’s what businesses want – people roaming around with positive thoughts as they come in to buy things.

Article Abstract from March, 2011




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