Several nights ago, I was jogging on the sidewalk of 500 North when a string of car headlights blinded me. As a result, I ran into a thorn bush that was dangling about five feet above the sidewalk. It hurt and unfortunately it wasn’t the first time I’ve been blinded and hurt on that stretch of my run.
I jog the same 5.75 mile route everyday, six days a week, so on subsequent days I tried to pay attention to what made that stretch of street different. And it didn’t take long before I discovered that the main difference is on-street parking.
As it turns out, most of my route has a buffer of parked cars between the sidewalk and the street. Once I started paying attention, I quickly noticed that these parked cars actually cut down on glare for passing pedestrians, as well as for buildings with shallow setbacks. By contrast the places without street parking, including where I was hit by the bush, all seemed darker and more perilous whenever cars passed.
The experience illustrates one of the small benefits of on-street parking, though there are many others.
Remember what we said earlier about “when fear arrives, pedestrians depart”? One major source of fear is the possibility that a car might run off the street and hit you. On-street parking alleviates this fear, because each of those park cars acts as a shield of several thousand pounds of metal between you and the moving traffic. People don’t consciously realize this all the time, but you’ve never seen a sidewalk cafe next to the expressway, have you?
Mouzon also writes that street parking reduces the need for big driveways, parking garages, and has economic benefits for nearby businesses, among other things. Studies have additionally discovered that on-street parking slows traffic down, and of course it’s becoming increasingly popular as a buffer between bicycle lanes and car lanes.
With all of these benefits, it makes sense to simply let cars park on the street. In fact, cities and residents ought be be encouraging more street parking, not less as is the case in many communities, including Provo. As that happens pedestrians will generally be safer and hopefully I’ll get hit in the face with thorny branches less often.