Last month, Parking Today published an article I wrote about the creation of a new type of parking sign by Nikki Sylianteng. The conversations I had with her and the other sources I quoted gave me more to write about than I could use in a single article.
One of my sources, Brandy Stanley, Parking Services Manager for Economic and Urban Development in Las Vegas, said the main problem with parking signs is that most people just don’t read them. I’m sure she’s right, but I’m one of the people who do read them. I don’t want to waste my money on parking tickets, so I’m careful to establish the terms before I park.
It’s hard to imagine someone being so reckless as to park without being aware of the rules, but I’ve always been a nerd that way.
The most trouble I ever have reading parking signs is when I am in a city or state that is not my own. If I’m visiting someplace where I have no idea what the parking patterns are, I am completely dependent on posted signs, rather than experience.
First, I have to locate the sign that applies to my location, which is not always an easy task, and then I have to decipher it.
I consider myself a literate person. It’s not only that I read a lot, but I have a degree in journalism and a 25-year-old SAT score that both point to high comprehension and language skills. And if I sound like I’m bragging, be aware of how little I want to talk about the number of years it has been since I took the SAT.
I’m not a snob when it comes to literature, although I draw the line at Nicholas Sparks and Stephenie Meyer – saccharine predictability and insecure vampires don’t do it for me. But the quality of the writing is just as important to me as the subject and content of a book.
I don’t do book clubs, because I think talking about books is more boring than church. Symbolism, metaphor and themes of love, redemption, mortality, etc. are all nice, but I don’t read a book to analyze it – I read it for entertainment or education, and sometimes both.
Where I’m going with all these details so obviously unrelated to parking is that I am a good reader, with excellent comprehension, a wide vocabulary, and strong language skills. If I can’t understand a parking sign, there’s definitely a problem with the sign.
And if I can’t understand a parking sign, I hate to think about how tough it must be for people with average, or even below-average language skills, not to mention those who speak English as a second language.
Julie Dixon, Principal at Dixon Resources Unlimited, told me that posted signs must be legally enforceable. It makes sense. If the wording of a sign negates its legality, then parking enforcement becomes a useless exercise.
Other conversations I had about parking signs for last month’s article included the fact that current regulations are in place for good reasons. They have been developed and tested and implemented and countless dollars have been poured into their creation and installation and enforcement.
The mechanism that has established our traffic laws and parking rules is based in engineering and law, and is applied in the spirit of efficiency and helpfulness. It has a lot of good points.
The point that designer Sylianteng made that really stayed with me was that the people who create the rules and post the signs are very well-versed in parking rules. They understand because they are engineers and lawyers and city planners.
Somewhere between the room full of officials making rules and the person on the street trying to park there is a disconnect. There will never be a parking sign that makes sense to every person. There will always be people who misunderstand parking signs for their own special reasons – not all individuals can be or want to be responsible for their choices.
But the system that has created current signage has also created a commitment to keeping that signage in place, regardless of how well or how badly it works. Entrenched ideas and practices are in opposition to the innovation needed for progress and productivity.
What I have to ask as a person who parks is that if the signs are incomprehensible to the average individual, how can they also be legally enforceable?