Legal Double Parking in School Zones — What Is Joel Rivera Thinking?

While the City Council sits on a package of bills intended to make city streets safer, Joel Rivera proposes one to make them more dangerous.

City Council Member Joel Rivera is taking some heat for a bill that would, in his words, “allow parents to double park when picking up their kids from school [and] not receive a parking ticket.” It’s the latest answer to a question no one asked from a council whose raison d’être seems to be absolving city motorists of as many responsibilities as possible.

Specifically, Intro 997 states:

[I]t shall be permissible for an individual to double park a motor vehicle with its engine off for up to five minutes in a roadway immediately adjacent to any school while a student at such school is being dropped off at such school by such motorist, and for up to ten minutes while such motorist waits to pick up or is in the process of picking up a student from such school. This section shall not apply where movement of such vehicle is required by an on duty emergency service vehicle.

Can you imagine traffic enforcement agents clocking how long individual motorists are sitting in front of schools? In effect, this bill would make it legal to double park in school zones, period.

As we wrote earlier today, the first known pedestrian fatality of 2013 occurred in Rivera’s council district, where roughly 75 percent of households are car-free. This bill isn’t doing his constituents, or anyone else, any favors.

Double-parked cars create “blind spots.” They lead to jostling and unpredictable vehicle movements as drivers attempt to pass. Does it really need to be said that this is not what you want in areas populated by kids? That kids are small and are often not seen until they are in a driver’s path? That kids don’t have the same ability to judge speed and distance as do adults?

If there is one place in the city where motorists most deserve tickets for double parking, it’s outside a school.

  • Parent

    It would also be a great way to get out of a ticket if you’re double parked on a block with a school and, say, your dry cleaners or a post office, which is not uncommon in NYC’s dense neighborhoods.  If you come back to your vehicle to find a TEA writing a ticket, you could just say “But I was dropping off my kid!”

    Drivers do not need more excuses to inconvenience and endanger children.

  • cmu

    Please. Talk about manufactured outrage. People double park ALL the time in front of schools (what choice do they have?) and there’s no problem. Your one statistic does not a trend make. And these are mothers, after all, they will be careful. “Dodging” cars? When they’re stationary or barely moving? And the kids are hand-in-hand with adults?

    Actually this is a good way to calm traffic in front of schools. 

    That said, I think driving kids to school should be discouraged, unless they live too far away.

  • Anonymous

    In Japan, in many places it’s ILLEGAL to drive your kids to school because of the additional traffic/congestion it creates, not to mention the health dangers, etc. 

  • Streetsman

    There are over a million students at over a thousand schools all across New York City that would be effected by this bill. Without an environmental analysis this action seems like a pretty clear violation of SEQRA

  • Anonymous

    Classic windshield perspective.

  • Anonymous

    The bill should allow double-parking by parents in the bike lanes that run past schools (though it’s hardly necessary).


  • Miles Bader

    They should simply ban cars near schools entirely.

    [And yes, slow moving cars are a threat to kids… Car drivers have very poor situational awareness.]

  • Among the many ways that this is a stupid idea, it legitimates the idea that the only way to get your children to and from school is by car. There are many other ways and lots of them don’t cause the inconvenience to others that cars cause. It’s eloquent testimony to people’s failure to think clearly about this that one of the comments on here asks, “What choice do they have?” Well, apart from finding a legal parking spot, off the top of my head I’d mention walking, taking the subway, taking the bus and cycling as some of the wide range of choices on offer in the city. My family seems to cope with getting to and from school and other errands without a car. Double-parked vehicles are, nevertheless, often an obstacle to that.

  • Anonymous

    This is bass akward.  These double parked cars pose a clear and present danger to our children crossing the street to & from school and we are going to give them a free pass?  No Way!!!

  • cmu

    If you want a discussion on whether or not parents SHOULD drive kids to school, ok, by all means. That’s a different animal. I never drove my kid to school and wouldn’t dream of doing so, but there is a segment that has to. And to insist that they ‘find a legal parking space’ for 5 minutes (tried that lately in PS or most other neighborhoods?) is asinine. 

    This is a classic example of (NOT) windshield perspective, but refusing to accomodate and share. It’s no big deal if there are double parked cars for say 30 mins around school drop off time…just use another street if you’re upset. Sharing the road (bikes, peds, cars, even temporarily double parked vehicles) is a good use of the space. Those who use hyperbolic statements like ‘endangeing’ children and ‘slow moving cars are a threat to kids” (what, fast moving cars are not?) should chill. Check out other countries and how road space is maximally utilized and shared.

  • cmu

    And, btw, everyone ‘double parks’ for street cleaning. I’m sure it’s not legal (as they give tickets every few months,) but it’s an acceptable accomodation to a real problem. This is the same.

  • @cmu:twitter How do parents walking children to the same school where people are double parking “use a another street” if they’re upset?
    When a driver double-parks on an active street, he blocks other drivers.  The double parking in front of MS 51 on 5th Ave in Park Slope is a mess and blocks the B63 – ironically the bus is often filled with school kids who wind up being inconvenienced by the two or three drivers at a time who block the travel lane.  So this isn’t just about kids’ safety, it’s also about not inconveniencing the vast majority of street users. 

    Maybe we need to eliminate some parking near schools and create temporary 5-minute drop-off/pick-up zones during morning and afternoon hours.  But something tells me the drivers who cling to those parking spaces won’t accommodate and share with the parents who understandably need to drive their kids to school.

  • Hilda

    Every single day parents double park their cars in front of my kids school, and every single day, EVERY SINGLE DAY, school buses are blocked from getting to the school and not able to get through. Kids that get onto buses at 7:10am or earlier are late to school because some people insist on dropping their kids off at the door to the school, and double parking. Perhaps they don’t trust letting their kids walk to school, even with crossing guards from one block away, because everyone drives the way they do and are not going to slow down, even in a school zone with speed bumps.

    @0b0823518bc1aa61f8968d1058cabd20:disqus , you think this is no big deal? We have parent volunteers asking people to move 40 yards down the street to double park down the street so that the buses can get through. No deal, they simply refuse. This means that there are double parked cars right in front of the doors to the school. Kids are being dropped off in the middle of the street from the bus and are walking through the 2 or less feet between double parked car bumpers, often idling. Kids on the school bus have no choice. The parents in the cars know how dangerous this is, and get out of their cars to walk their kids in, confounding problems. 

    There is adequate legal parking a block away on Atlantic Ave, which is even free before 9am, perfect for school drop off. You get a ticket enough times, you start to use the legal parking. Otherwise this will only get worse. I would much prefer complete drop-off free zone in front of every school, with tickets doubled, especially during school hours, so that the buses can get through.

  • Eric McClure

    My Councilmember is Brad Lander. If your Councilmember is Joel Rivera or Jimmy Vacca or some other lawbreaking-driver apologist, please give serious consideration to running for Council.

  • Sfaust1534

    There are drug free school zones.
    There should be car free school zones.

  • What’s next, an exemption for dropping the kids at dance practice? Another for taking their grandparents to underwater aerobics? And don’t forget those emergency trips to the vet with dear Bessy. One absolutely must be able to double park for ailing animal companions!

    This is not how the law works. It is how the law dies.

    If double parking is so wonderful and harmless, why make it illegal at all? Just let every driver park everywhere always, as government insiders do already, and see how that goes for the whole of society. I’m so happy to “share” my patch of sidewalk with motorists on important errands, like in so many “other countries” – of the third world.

  • Andrew

    I think all driving and parking regulations should be waived when the driver has (or can come up with) a good reason.

    (Note: by “driver” I mean motor vehicle driver. Bicyclists, of course, must never break any rules for any reason whatsoever.)

  • Anonymous

    This is a slippery slope. Next you know, people will double park in front of churches too!

  • Anonymous


    And these are mothers, after all, they will be careful.

    I think that statement nicely captures your level of argumentation. The idea that being a mother somehow makes you careful (“Motherhood: transforming every normal schnook into Aditi”) . . . the idea that mothers are the only people who drop off children at school by car. . . the list of unexamined assumptions goes on and on.

    Anyway: in addition to all its other problems, this bill should be called the Honking Horror Bill because that’s what it will cause: masses of impatient drivers beeping at masses of other impatient drivers. Pity people who live near schools if this should be passed!

  • Adam Anon

    Double parked cars block buses and emergency vehicles. Double parking should be prohibited anywhere and enforced, not excused and allowed. My buses passes by a school that has a no-parking zone, drop off only and people still double park and block the entire block. Now, if you make that legal, even more people will do this and we’ll have triple parking completely choking the street.

  • Joe R.

    This has to be the most brain-dead idea I’ve ever seen the City Council contemplate, and that’s saying a lot. Also, I don’t get why there is suddenly such a need for motorized transportation (both cars and school buses) to schools, either. Virtually every place in NYC has at least a grade and middle school within walking distance. Allowing cars to double park in front of schools makes no sense at all but let’s not also forget that the huge fleet of school buses inflicted on the city in the last ten years is nearly as much of a nuisance. Any good reason why kids aren’t going to the schools closest to where they live? That would solve this issue in a heartbeat. Back when I was in school, if you had to travel beyond walking distance to school, it wasn’t until high school. And even then most of the students happily the subway or regular bus service. What we’re doing now is sheer insanity.

  • Miles Bader

    @dporpentine:disqus Indeed; here’s a “mother being careful”:

    (kids died immediately; mother died a few days later)

  • As a parent of NYC school kids I don’t understand why anyone has to use their car to drop them off or pick them up more than once or twice a school year.

  • sam

    Your legal articles are always very informative, you make clear complicated law articles. Let me please invite you to write something to the directory of law enforcement articles on Attorney Online. There is also a legal blog you may post to and an Attorney Directory with free submission. I suppose, you know a lot of good lawyers who can be listed there.

  • cmu

    This is exactly like every other thread on this site. Nobody gives an inch, nobody wants to see an issue in nuanced terms. The 5-min temporary spaces is sensible. Asking parents to double park further away is very sensible. But look at these statements:
    – double parked cars in front of ms51 block traffic: Really? Last I looked the street is plenty wide enough. D.P. cars do not ‘block’ traffic, they impede it. How many times have you seen real ‘blockages’ on 5th Ave with all its double parked trucks, as opposed to a, not too common, maybe 30-second wait for opposing traffic?- Bicyclists inconvienced: as a regular cyclist myself (but not concerned about rabidly maintaining my momentum, which is minimal,) I negotiate this all the time. No big deal.- kids have to walk between cars with 2′ between them: So? My kid has done this routinely from the age of 9.- d.p. cars affect parents walking their kids to school: how? The sight of these scofflaws makes them faint?- extending the double parking argument to pets, hair appts and whatever: enuf said.- video: thanks, but cite some stats next time. I may have extended myself with the mothers being careful thing, but it’s a stereotype that’s based on fact.

  • Joe R.

    @0b0823518bc1aa61f8968d1058cabd20:disqus Cyclists can be more than inconvenienced by double-parked cars. Let’s put aside for the moment how f-ing annoying it is to have slam on your brakes or switch lanes practically every block because some bozo can’t be bothered to find (or perhaps pay for) a legal parking spot. Double park cars create hazards for cyclists in two ways. One, to go around a double-parked car they need to merge into a traffic stream which may or may not be safe. If traffic is light, no big deal. If you have heavy, fast traffic, then a cyclist either has the option of trying to merge into whatever small gap may appear, or waiting (perhaps many minutes) until either the double-parked car moves, or traffic clears.

    The second reason double-parking is dangerous for cyclists is the manner in which many people double park-namely they’ll just be cruising along, then they suddenly slam on the brakes, move to the right, and stop dead (actually taxis do the exact same thing). It doesn’t take much imagination to see how this is dangerous (not only to cyclists, but also to any vehicle behind them). In a perfect world where people drove civilly, and only double-parked if there really was a good reason, then double-parking wouldn’t be an issue. One of my favorite things is when people double-park right next to any empty spot, presumably to save the few seconds it would take to park and unpark.

    There are plenty of good reasons why double-parking is illegal. Any law which gives legitimacy to it is an awful idea. In fact, any type of one street parking is a really bad idea just because you can have vehicles literally anywhere entering or exiting parking spots. If we must have parking, it should be 100% off-street, with the streets being strictly no parking, no standing zones (except for designated loading zones or bus stops).

  • car free nation

    MS51 is a great example of why this law is foolish. Parents routinely double park in the bike lane as the drivers check their phones after watching their kids to the door. Meanwhile, 5th avenue’s bike lane, which should be safe enough for kids to use, is then clogged with double parked cars, which makes it too dangerous to ride. Therefore, the middle school and high school kids who could potentially bike to one of the neighborhood schools (other than 51) cannot, which means they take the bus, or have their parents drive them which causes more double parking.

    And for what? So some middle school kid doesn’t have to walk a few blocks. 

    There’s an easy solution at 51. Get rid of all the privileged free parking in front of the school, and make it 5 minutes only during the school day, then sell 20 drop off passes at auction and use the money for the PTA. Then no one needs to double park.

  • Joe R.

    And incidentally, five minutes is a ridiculous amount of time to need to be double parked while picking up or dropping off a kid a school. It shouldn’t take more than 15 or 20 seconds. Stop car, open door, get in or out of car, close door, move. If the proposed law said 30 seconds maximum standing time, I don’t think it would be that big a deal. Yes, this might mean children will need to wait until their parent arrives instead of vice versa, but who said life is perfect?

  • Anonymous

     @0b0823518bc1aa61f8968d1058cabd20:disqus So, your response to the “slippery slope” argument is “enuf said?” Please. Give drivers an inch, and they’ll take a mile. Legalizing double-parking in any situation is dangerous. It creates blind spots and encourages swerving, speeding, and crossing the double-yellow into oncoming traffic. Those are all things that can be seen just standing anywhere you see double-parking. Your comments have dismissed these threats, but it’s clear that you’re blind to them.

    I simply can’t see how anyone thinks these behaviors are acceptable anywhere, especially around schools, where children are the bulk of the pedestrians.

  • anxiouslyawaitingbikeshare

    I would go as far to say that this bill isn’t even good for the very narrow demographic of “parents who are trying to drop off their kids at school by car.”

    Sure, say ~10 parents would have a more convenient time but then every other parent would be forced to honk their way through the line of stopped cars to get their kids OR they would triple park illegally. If there are double parked cars legally  the teachers/administrators who frequently direct traffic at schools to accommodate the traffic would have no leverage to move double parked parents.

    There are obviously broader transportation and safety implications, but even parents who drop their children off at school by car should be opposed to this on basic grounds of convenience.

  • @0b0823518bc1aa61f8968d1058cabd20:disqus  I think you’re getting too hung up on semantics. Block, impede…you’re splitting hairs.  Of course the street is not blocked forever.  Why should an entire bus load of people be “impeded” by someone dropping one kid off at school?  Is that our standard?  “As long as traffic isn’t stopped for all eternity, it’s okay to double park!”

  • Also, here’s what can happen when kids walk by unattended, idling vehicles. I see no need to allow my daughter to walk between two double parked cars.

  • krstrois

    There is no end to how stupid this is. Worst part is that people will be like “oh finally! Some legislation JUST FOR ME.”  

  • Anonymous

    I’m on the fence on issues like this one.

    I don’t have any kids in school, but I can understand how there is a subset of people for whom the best option to get their kids to school is to drive them.  Sure, some of these people are entitled twits driving the equivalent of a 10 minute walk, but it’s not valid to just wave our hands and say everyone should be able to do it without a car.
    Because school arrival times are so concentrated, there can’t be enough curbside space to meet peak demand if any significant proportion of students arrive by car, thus the tendency to engage in double parking.

    On the other hand, double parking in general is more than just annoying.  It is dangerous to everyone on the street, including other drivers, because of the reduction in visibility, and the loss of lane separation (such as when bike lanes are obstructed, etc.)

    When you look at just the example of people dropping off kids at school, it doesn’t look that dangerous in isolation.  It occurs at a known time and place on a regular basis, and so therefore it is predictable and avoidable.  Again taken in isolation, it may be more efficient to temporarily re-allocate this street space for the use of cars dropping off kids while inconveniencing other drivers and bikers who will need to detour around the area in front of the school.  If your route took you past MSG right as a major game was ending, you would probably plan a different route.

    But, as others have noted, it also erodes the already shaky respect for the rules against illegal parking in general.  It’s the same problem as the “grace period” for expired meters, or the “professional courtesy” given to cars displaying placards.  Every exception, whether de jure or de facto, weakens compliance.

  • Totally aside from the dangers associated with double parked cars, what do you do when a school has 400 to 500 students? If only half of the parents double park in front of the school that’s still hundreds of cars blocking the streets! How are school busses or emergency vehicles supposed to get through? Should children who have been relegated to ride the bus have to wait till all the double parked cars have left?

  • cmu

    >to slam on your brakes or switch lanes practically every block
    Only if you ride with your head down else  wouldn’t you see the car ahead of time to not have to ‘slam on your brakes’? Concede the dangerousness of cars suddenly moving to the right, but that’s nothing to do with double parking, they do the same to turn right, stop at a legal parking space, etc. A cyclist just has to be aware.

    >five minutes is a ridiculous amount of time
    Well, that’s an upper limit if your kid has lots of luggage to stash, and has to fasten seat belt before over-careful mommy will move the car ;).

    doug: >semantics: no, the street is rarely if ever ‘blocked’ unless it’s a garbage truck on a cross street. You can get by the stopped car almost aways. Hence, ‘impede’. 

    Oh well, if the most dangerous thing you encounter is a stationary car, we live in a very safe world.

  • Joe R.

    @0b0823518bc1aa61f8968d1058cabd20:disqus There are lots of times a cyclist trying to go around double-parked cars might end up slamming on the brakes despite seeing the car. And 100% of it has to do with the idiot drivers we have in this city. Case in point-I can easily see a double-parked car from a block or more away but let’s say there is no gap in traffic to move left to go around it until I’m nearly upon it. I carefully judge when to merge into the gap, and increase my speed according, perhaps from my customary pace of 17 or 18 mph up to 25+ mph (remember I need to avoid getting rear-ended by faster moving cars when I merge into the traffic stream). Now I can’t maintain 25+ mph for very long, but I only need to until I pass the double-parked car, and then I can move right again and slow down. Unfortunately, just as I’m about to merge into the traffic stream, the idiot driver who would have been behind me decides to speed up. The gap disappears. Only alternate is to slam on the brakes to avoid rear-ending the double-parked car. This is more than hypothetical. It’s happened to me enough to avoid riding on streets where double-parking is prevalent.

    Note that once again, if drivers behaved civilly, the double-parked car really wouldn’t be an issue. Heck, it would be nice if motorists actually slowed down just to let a cyclist go around a double-parked car, but I suppose that’s asking too much from all these people for whom a few seconds is too precious. No, let’s just let the cyclist sit there and wait however many minutes until a suitable gap in traffic appears. After all, they’re just a cyclist and have plenty of time to waste every time someone double-parks. That’s the trouble when everyone is only thinking/acting in their own self-interests. It slows everyone down way more than granting an occasional courtesy might.

  • Andrew

    So you’re suggesting that the bus route that serves the school, that carries hundreds of students to the school, should be diverted away from the school to another street during school start and end times to accommodate parents who want to double park in front of the school?

  • Whirlowtrotter

    Though illegal this already happens where I live. The school gates and all of the streets surrounding the area for about 300m become a real traffic nightmare each morning and afternoon. Surely the answer is to ban all cars from parking within say 300m of school between certain hours. Residents could be given exemption passes.

  • TankGirl

    This is what happens when cars are parked in a no parking school zone,in front on the school. Picture it,I’m parked in a legal spot with my bumper facing the school. Car pulls up and parks directly behind me,in front of the school,in the no parking school zone. With a vehicle parked where he was,NO cars can exit their parking spot. There isn’t enough room. ….so,what happens is,I back into the side of his vehicle. He was in a blind spot by being parked illegally ….so I go inside the school and tell the guy what happened. And he says (I was just saying to myself,that car is going to back into my truck). Yet he still parked there. Everyone in the office said “that’s why you’re not suppose to park there,I’ve been trapped in my parking spot because cars pull up and park behind me”….
    If he hadnt parked ileagally,this would not have happened!


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