Were we to highlight the selfish actions of our fellow drivers, the list would soon occupy a considerable amount of space. But I choose today to highlight one in particular: The wrong-way parker.
For as long as I have been driving, I have made efforts to park on the side of the street facing in the direction of travel. Friends have even ridiculed me for this driving pedantry, particularly when, on streets with parking on only one side, I would go so far as to find a place to turn round just so I could park facing the correct way. Perhaps I am an extreme example. But then again, maybe it just appears that way given the growing number of people who don’t even put a modicum of effort into parking properly and considerately.
I thought about this more recently again when a Finnish friend pointed out a car on his street that was parked against the kerb facing the wrong way. It looked so out of place to him that he couldn’t help but notice it. Yet here, it happens all the time. Unfortunately, it is not illegal – article 239 in the Highway Code simply states in what appears to be advisory form, ‘If you have to stop on the roadside, do not park facing against the flow of traffic’ (and if I’m wrong and it is in fact illegal, I have not once seen it enforced). So why do people do it?
The only answer is pure selfishness.
When I lived in Durham, the next town over had a high street with parking on only one side. The A690 is a busy road most of the time, and yet people would routinely stop and generate large queues of traffic with their attempts to pull into or out of the parking bay facing the wrong direction. It didn’t matter that finding a place to turn round on that stretch of the A690 was not difficult – there were ample number of side streets and small forecourt car parks in which to do so. But their selfishness dictated that the whole world was going to stop so they could put the least amount of effort into securing, and later leaving, a parking spot.
I see the same thing happening regularly everywhere I go. I am no statistician, but given the increasing number of wrong-way parkers on our roads, I would be interested to know how significant of an impact this has on congestion in towns and cities. Certainly, on the A690 above, I can remember Saturday mornings where I was forced to sit behind cars for several minutes as the drivers attempted to dart across oncoming traffic into an available spot in the parking bay. And this is before we even take account of how profoundly dangerous it is to pull out from a parking bay into oncoming traffic virtually blind.
This won’t change, of course – as one amusing video I saw on Twitter the other day demonstrated, every selfish cell in a person’s body is activated as soon as they get behind the wheel. To bring two (or more) lanes of traffic to a halt to get in or out of a parking bay is not just incompetence. It is an act of contempt for your fellow driver, an anarchic rejection of the rule of law, and a deliberate spurning of the common good.
Do you want to make the world a better place? Start parking the right way.