Dibs? Not on our street, says one group

February 4, 2011

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(Flickr/John Dunlevy)
(Flickr/Katie Scully)
(Flickr/Katie Scully)

City officials don't seem to be too concerned about the Chicago tradition of saving parking spots after a big snow, but there's now a community movement organizing against the practice of calling "dibs" on parking spaces.

Dare to trek down a snowy Chicago sidestreet, and you'll likely see dibs-ing in action: freshly-dug out parking spots, cordoned off with everything from lawn chairs to sawhorses to stuffed animals.

"This year walkers seem to be pretty popular and wheel chairs. I guess people are going for the sympathy vote on those things," said Kevin Lynch, founder of a loosely-organized community movement called Chair-Free Chicago. The group provides people with free signs to hang in their neighborhoods that declare "This area is a Chair-Free Zone." Following this week's monster winter storm, the group has also organized neighborhood dig-outs in hopes of softening Chicago's every-parker-for-himself attitude.

"Behind the things that are on the street, there's neighbors who really aren't acting like neighbors," Lynch said. "So I think it's just been a consistent frustration of a lot of people."

But for now, cracking down on dibs-ing seems to have taken a back seat as the city cleans up after the third-largest snow storm in its history.

When asked by reporters about the time-honored - and controversial - tradition on Friday, Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Tom Byrne said he applauds people who take the initiative to shovel out their spots.  But when pressed about the city's policy on dibsing, he side-stepped.

"At this moment ... that's a thing that [residents are] doing and they're trying to save what they dug out and ... we're not gonna take a position on that," Byrne said.

A spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said the practice is, indeed, illegal. But he added that the city usually lets it slide for a few days after a big storm.