Answer: Chicago’s winter parking ban.
Question: What happens every year like clockwork, yet still manages to catch people by surprise?
Starting Friday, Dec. 1, the city’s annual overnight parking ban will take effect on 107 miles of streets, from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. daily, through April 1.
The ban applies whether there’s snow on the ground or not. While that may strike some as excessive, officials have learned the hard way what happens when a storm hits suddenly and plows can’t clear streets because of all the parked cars blocking their path.
“Having this consistent rule for overnight parking allows snow removal crews to plan and execute their operations more effectively, and we ask residents and visitors to please follow the posted parking restriction signs so critical routes can be fully salted and plowed during winter weather events,” said Cole Stallard, commissioner of the Department of Streets and Sanitation.
Permanent signage is posted on streets affected by the ban, and Streets and San also places flyers on cars parked along the routes as a reminder in advance of the restrictions, officials said.
Here’s what to do if you wake up Dec. 1 and your car isn’t where you left it:
— Call 311 or search online at chicagoshovels.org to see if your car has been towed and if so, where it’s been taken.
— Prepare for sticker shock: Violators of the parking ban face a minimum $150 towing fee, a $60 ticket and a storage fee of $25 per day.
— Head to the pound to claim your car. Vehicles towed because of the ban will be at one of two places: Pound 2, 10301 S. Doty Ave., or Pound 6, 701 N. Sacramento Ave.
And keep a ruler handy. There’s a separate but rarely-activated 2-inch parking ban on an additional 500 miles of streets whenever there’s at least 2 inches of snow on the street, no matter the time of day or the calendar date. Motorists could be ticketed or have their vehicle relocated.
Thank the blizzards of 1967 and ‘79 — and the political fallout — for both of these parking bans.
Here’s a bright spot to snow season: Remember 2022’s “name that plow contest”? Salter Payton, Sears Plower and the rest of Da Plow crew will be back on the beat this winter, with details of a new contest coming soon.
So start sharpening those puns.