NIMBY moments

They don’t want bike lanes. I never wanted them as neighbors

The other day, I came out of my house to find a scattering of yellow papers up and down my street. I’ve lived in my place for nearly 20 years, and I’ve watched my North Park street transition from a more rough-around-the-edges neighborhood to one that is filled with luxury cars and otherwise well-meaning gentrifiers. Sure, I don’t miss waking up in the middle of the night to a meth addict on my roof, but I do miss the simplicity of finding convenient parking.

The yellow papers littering the street surprised me. It’s been a while since random wrappers and cigarette butts littered the ground of my block. Sure, I still often have to dodge a landmine from one of the lazy neighbors not picking up after their dogs, but trash on the street has been uncommon post-gentrification. I picked up one of the leaflets to find it was a flyer promoting Save 30th Street Parking, an organization devoted to combatting the mayor’s decision to install protected bike lanes along 30th Street from Juniper Street all the way up to Howard Avenue. One of my immediate neighbors is helping to promote the organization. I don’t imagine he littered them. It’s much more likely the flyers blew off the doors, mailboxes and windshields he was leaving them on. 

It’s been a while since I’ve felt a sense of NIMBYism. In fact, the only time I’ve ever felt it was when the affluent, mostly white homebuyers began to snatch up all the properties in my neighborhood post-recession. And whereas there had been plenty of parking spaces on my street before, my neighbors (let’s call them Chad and Kelly) suddenly needed to park their other SUV on the street since there simply wasn’t room for both vehicles in their driveway, a luxury that most people who live on the street don’t even have.

So when I saw this yellow flyer, I was, as the kids put it, “triggered.” I wanted to walk over to my neighbor’s house (which has a driveway, by the way) and scream at him not only for the unsolicited, illegal placement of his flyers, but for being so naïve as to think he was some kind of savior for those who supposedly depend on these parking spaces. I wanted to tell him that parking on 30th had never really been a problem until people like him moved into the neighborhood. That it was exactly this post-recession influx of new homebuyers and renters that caused all the traffic problems in the first place. That much of the issues with parking have more to do with people parking their precious Teslas and Range Rovers in a way that other cars can’t fit behind or in front of them, lest someone nudge and scratch their bumper while trying to parallel park. 

But most of all, I wanted to tell him about the hypocrisies of well-meaning progressives. There has never been a Trump sign in my neighborhood. Hell, I’ve been there long enough to where I remember Gore/Lieberman signs. And the inconvenient truth is that most of my neighbors, and a good chunk of North Park residents in general, love the idea of doing something about climate change but want others to do it for them. If it inconveniences them or it means personally sacrificing something, that just won’t do. Chad and Kelly have a Bernie Sanders 2016 sticker on their Prius, but they’re the same couple that complains if they have to park a block away and walk (oh, the humanity!) to get to their front door.

And people are falling for it. There are literally hundreds of available parking spaces on 30th-adjacent side streets like Grim Avenue and Dale Street, but that won’t stop homeowners from complaining that they don’t want people parking there either. And despite the countless information and studies out there that points to protected bike lanes being good for local businesses and helping to combat congestion and climate change, opponents will continue to point out their well-meaning intentions as they litter your street with flyers.