Let’s face it: even when you can understand them, No Parking signs suck. They are like a finger wagging no every time we try to park on a street. However, when we are faced with a No Parking Wednesdays from 4pm–6pm sign, at least we can rest assured that we actually understand the thing.
Not so with this crop of traffic signs, which make it nearly impossible for you to comply with whatever laws might be behind them.
The 15-Foot Tower of Nonsense
Look at that thing. Courtesy of Culver City, California, this parking restriction sign is so absurdly tall that the people who photographed the sign had difficulty getting it all in one shot. That is eight — count them, eight — signs stacked atop one another, including one that says something about a “student valet service,” which sounds very fancy indeed.
In a rather rare show of swift municipal responsiveness, these towering behemoths were chopped in half after the entire Internet made fun of them.
How About Just Skipping Downtown Philadelphia?
Apparently the parking sign problem in downtown Philadelphia also reaches tragicomic levels. Rather than just piling one sign on top of the other ad infinitum, Philly likes to mix it up by having one enormous sign with an absurd amount of text instead. Oh, and the Philadelphia Parking Authority is not interested in explaining themselves to you, thank you very much.
With up to five colors, nearly 60 words and a healthy dose of small print, many of Philadelphia’s downtown parking signs are complicated enough to confuse even the most astute motorist.
The Parking Authority did not answer our many questions regarding its parking signs, and cited federal privacy laws in denying our Right to Know inquiry requesting specific information about tickets issued last year.
To be fair, the Parking Authority probably does not understand those parking signs either.
Maybe Consider Avoiding Boston As Well
Boston’s North End is a congested mess, so good luck finding an available spot to begin with; and once you do, good luck figuring it out. The Boston Globe tried to figure out this five-sign monstrosity, and they made it through two parts of the signage before things went completely off the rails.
[W]hat about parking to the right of this sign during the three hours between when resident parking ends at 8 a.m. and when absolutely no parking starts at 11 a.m.? Good news! Anyone can park there during that three hour window. Bad news! You can only park there for 15 minutes.
Actually, we did not even get that far in figuring these signs out.
It is obvious that a lot of these restrictions are designed, rightly so, to ensure that residents can park in a highly congested area. But even residents must live in fear of violating the laws behind this inscrutable signage.
New York City, Now Marginally Less Awful Than Before
The parking signs in New York City are so legendarily incomprehensible that they were even the subject of a Louis C.K. bit. Last year, New York began a much-ballyhooed redesign, changing out more than 6000 signs to a kinder sign format. And they are indeed less monstrous looking.
One tiny little problem barely worth mentioning: There are over one million parking signs in New York City and the city’s traffic rules are eighty-nine pages. The chances of encountering a sign you do not understand based on a law you do not know remains shockingly high.
Short, Sweet, and Menacing
What law is strictly enforced? What range of land around this sign falls under its reign? Is it a parking ordinance? A noise ordinance? A dog leash ordinance?
It doesn’t matter. With this sign, you can instill a vague sense of dread and worry in your town’s citizens.
This Is Not A Photoshop Job
Earlier this year, a photo posted to Reddit showed the greatest parking sign of all time. In this space, you are granted a full glorious 60 seconds of parking privileges. It seemed too good — or too bad, take your pick — to be true.
In case you are in doubt, another Reddit user tracked down the actual sign and confirmed that yes, such a thing existed at 11777 San Vicente Blvd in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. The story behind the one-minute parking rule? A typo.
Now, let us grant that this was an honest mistake. This still leaves us with the problem that many people involved in the process of signage took a look at this sign and thought “yep, sounds about right.” We are still waiting on Reddit to confirm if anyone ever got a ticket for parking there for 90 seconds.
Originally published 2014-08-29. Last updated 2015-09-18.