Around Town

What are the ethics of a parking spot on a snow-covered street?

Safesies across for City Hall in Lambertville

“Savesies” across from City Hall in Lambertville

You shovel out the on-street parking spot in front of your house and you don’t have a driveway. You grab some hot cocoa, shower off, or perhaps take a nice warm bath, and daydream about buying a snowplow. After departing for work the next day, the spot that you worked so hard to clear gets taken. You’re in for an icy reception upon your return.

The Cognosenti page, run by Boston University public radio station, WBUR, discussed “The Social Ethics of Parking Space Savers,” or as they’re known in Philadelphia, “savesies”:

“The split between those who hoard their spots, and those who spread the wealth for the next guy, uncovers a philosophical divide. Do I exhume my car and leave, content in knowing that ‘my’ spot will soon be snatched up, but trusting that later, I’ll score a spot someone else has shoveled out? Or do I ensure that my shoveling labors are rewarded with a private, albeit temporary, parking space for myself, and my neighbors’ needs be damned?

Author Ethan Gilsdorf, continued:

“The real battle isn’t over public space. It’s about two warring schools of thought — those who believe in short term payoff for one’s individual labor, and those who think one’s individual labor should benefit the longer term common good.”

Over the past couple of days, many have likely witnessed acts of common kindness, as well as cringe-worthy rude behavior. But what are citizens’ obligations after a historic snowstorm or any extreme weather-related event?

At the forefront of most community efforts is shoveling the driveways, sidewalks and steps of our more vulnerable populations. But what about now, during the aftermath?

In Trenton, Meals on Wheels (MOW) volunteers could not deliver to their clients Monday due to few parking spaces being available. To complicate matters, most of the helpers at the Mercer County nonprofit are over 65 years old and struggling to even walk the slippery sidewalks. These aren’t city sidewalks either.

Back in 2011, Lambertville warned about saving parking spaces, but Winter Storm Jonas was historic, and so far, the city has made no similar announcement, with the exception of noting that extra parking has been made available at Ely Field, the Justice Center and the Public Library.

Is it up to local governments to encourage better behavior with stricter enforcement of on-street spaces? Or is there an unspoken local moral code that we’re all bound to? For instance, do residents with driveways offer space to neighbors, as long as symbiotic return-assistance is given with shoveling? Or perhaps a 15-minute parking rule can be signaled somehow for quick errands without disrupting others?

What do you think?


About the author

Steve Chernoski

Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website:


  • As well put by Monica – no one has right to save public parking spaces. I see this even during summer when people put lawn chairs out front (looking at you, town of Jim Thorpe). I would remove them and park, but I know that my car would be keyed if I did. I wish there was a way that the town (police, sanitation) can just confiscate and dispose of anything placed in a public parking place other than a car. If this action would be well alerted to all, we wouldn’t see the problem, and, with cars being keyed.

  • whether you shoveled out your car or not, you do not own a public street parking place. I repeat – you do not own it. It’s absolutely ridiculous to think anyone can “save” their spot just because they spent a few hours shoveling. You were shoveling to dig out your car, not to save your parking spot. Having “savies” is disrespecting your community, your neighbors, fellow local businesses, and people who work in the city of lambertville. Metered parking after a major storm is scarce at best – local businesses are losing customers because they cannot park. Why? Because that guy on Coryell street who left for work at 8am (not to be back before 5) has coned off his shoveled space so no one can use it. It doesn’t matter that it will be vacant for 8 hours, in his/her mind. He doesn’t care that he is preventing people who work in town a place to park while he is also away at work. He thinks he owns the space because he dug his car out. Big deal. Everyone digs their cars out. What about lambertville residents who happened to be out of town for the weekend who come home after the storm and they have no where to park even though there are 5 empty spaces on their block but they have been claimed – they are all coned off. They pay taxes here to. They are now stuck with a home they cannot even get to for fear of causing a rift with a neighbor who has his trash can covering empty spots on the block.
    Lambertville needs to formally address this issue before the next big storm. If you do not have your own driveway you cannot creat your own private coned spot on a public street. You do not have the right to do so. I dont care if it’s been done for years – it’s not legally you spot.

  • What about the ethics of burying your neighbor’s car when freeing yours from the snow? What if that neighbor lives out of state and won’t be back for months? What if that person drives a Volvo?

    You dig out a public space it’s a public space. You dig out your paid or private spot, it’s yours.

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