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Sunday, June 03, 2012
Just because it's legal, is it ethical?
Early each morning during the school year, a big yellow
school bus tries to maneuver the tight corner in front of my house. On-street
parking is legal on both sides of the street, so there are times when it's
particularly difficult for a big yellow school bus to maneuver its way around
parked cars to make its way around the corner.
We can tell when it's a particularly challenging morning
because we begin to hear the back-up beeps that large vehicles like big yellow
school buses make when they attempt to back up, and the bus driver beeps his
horn signaling that he's stuck.
While most neighbors know not to park their cars on both
sides of this corner so large vehicles (fire trucks also have a way of getting
stuck), parking remains legal on both sides of the street.
Recently, the owner of a 1990s blue sedan has decided to
park regularly in the spot that is the direct culprit for making corner
maneuvers tough. For several mornings, the driver of the big yellow school bus
tried to navigate his way through the narrow corner passageway. Traffic piled
up behind the bus streaming down a one-way side street, but on most of these
days the bus made it through.
That success came to an end last week. The passageway was
simply too narrow and the bus driver ultimately hooked onto the front side
fender of the car. Traffic piled up. Neighbors emerged from their homes. The
bus driver got off the bus to see if he could figure out who owned the blue
sedan. (None of the neighbors knew at that point.)
Finally, the owner of the blue sedan came out from his
house, asking neighbors if they knew what was going on.
"Someone's parked their car and blocked the school
bus," came the answer.
The fellow looked toward the bus. "That's my
car," he responded.
Meanwhile, as the bus driver approached the car owner, a
neighbor was talking to the kids on the stuck bus to keep them calm. (For the
record, they were not only calm, but were enjoying the drama.)
"The city should add a sign that says it's not legal
to park there so the bus can make it through," the car owner said to the
neighbor as she left the kids.
She told him that it would be a lot easier for large
vehicles to make the turn around the corner if he didn't park his car where he
had been parking it.
"But it's a legal spot," he responded, adding,
"I'm a lawyer, so I know it's legal."
The car owner knows that it's difficult for large
vehicles to make the turn around the bend when he parks his car where it does.
But since it's not illegal to park there, he sees no wrong in doing so even
knowing the resulting traffic tie up he often causes.
"The city should do something about this!" he
The right thing, regardless of whether it's legal, is for
him to do something about it and not park his car where he knows it's a
problem. Other neighbors already know this is the right thing to do - even if
it's not illegal to do otherwise. If ethics is how we decide to behave when we
belong together, we shouldn't always need a no-parking sign to tell us how to