Let's abandon the double-yellows

Ireland bravely set forth her own path a century ago, yet we emphatically embraced the British notion of double-yellow lines.

Perhaps they were in use before 1960, but they were introduced in the UK in legislation that year. Well after our independence, we adopted this custom of painting our public space with two yellow lines.

Since then, we have painted the length and breadth of our island in double yellow lines.

In Limerick, we have even taken the bridges that were planned by the British, and painted them with more symbols. Pictured above is Sarsfield Bridge which spans the River Shannon. That historical bridge deserves to be a no-parking zone, not a yellow stripey surface.

On a practical level, what function do double-yellow lines have, and what could we do instead? They indicate that vehicles may not be parked on that stretch of public space. Since parking at double-yellow lines usually is not enforced in Ireland, we can consider them as markers of increased optionality for the managers of that public space. It gives them explicit reason to protect that space, if the usage of that space becomes contentious. Otherwise, you can normally park on the double-yellow lines without consequence.

For areas that really always need to be kept clear of parked vehicles, mark it as such with a sign. Our over-use and under-enforcement of double-yellow lines have lead to their meaning to be devalued. Their meaning has been lost, and “enforcement” won’t be able to overcome inter-generational habits.

What if we took away double-yellow lines and didn’t replace them with any particular measure? Would it lead to “chaos” on the roads? Would our public space become a free-for-all? Unfortunately, it’s already the case that it’s a free-for-all. The lines have failed to contribute to the betterment of our lives, yet they are a prominent feature across the island of Ireland.

Double-yellows are also often an admission that the road itself has been made too wide. Rather than make every public space a road and controlling bits of it, start as everything as a footpath, and then carve out necessary space for the carriageway. Our public space is in need of a road diet.

For narrower roads where only a single motor vehicle can fit down, it’s useless to paint them with double-yellows. We already have codified it in law that you may not obstruct a roadway:

Pointless double-yellows. If it’s a road, it’s against road laws to block it in any case.

Double-yellow lines have a specific negative impact on behaviour, in that they encourage increased footpath parking. Double-yellows work against people walking somewhere! The thinking behind normal behaviour seems to go that if there are double-yellow lines, you should park further in on the footpath, because at least then you’re not obstructing the road:

“This is a double-yellow line, and I’m parking here, so I’ll park further in on the footpath so that it can’t be counted that I’m parking on the lines.”

Junctions don’t need double-yellow lines either. It’s already codified in road traffic law that you may not stop your vehicle there:

Double-yellows everywhere, but they’re not needed to enforce the parking laws.

What would an Ireland without double-yellow lines look like?

It wouldn’t look too different to today, in fairness 😀 The process would make us surface some underlying false beliefs. It would help free us from broken assumptions. And it would help us change the current culture of driving up on the footpath and storing your vehicle there. Footpaths are for people. It could lead us to a point where parking rules were specific in law, not needing thousands of kilometers of yellow paint, where the assumption is you shouldn’t park here.

One-way route to KFC Parnell Street making noise with the boys on the mend
Two in the back, one under a blanket
Heating is broke now I'm a bit anxious
C**t in the front just burnt out a transit
Now he's off to have a Boneless Banquet®
I'm Lee Marvin
Uh, uh, but I can't find parking
The only available space is a handicapped spot fuck it I'm starving
Me and all the boys are mongos anyway so we should be allowed park here
Park it up, park park it up, clearway I see no guards here

Prefontaine lyrics, by Versatile. Watch on YouTube.