Here at Coord, we love signs, especially when they’re clear. What we don’t love is when those signs are actually fakes masquerading as legitimate. If they’re done right, they can be really difficult to spot—so much so that law enforcement might start issuing citations.
That was the case a decade ago in Tarpon Springs, Fla., where police gave out more than 200 tickets over the course of two years before they became aware the “No Parking” signs were fakes. More recently, a contractor was given a slap on the wrist for posting phony “No Parking” signs near a construction site in Brooklyn in 2017—signs that had led some drivers to receive tickets. A subsequent investigation found similar examples all over the city.
In these cases, the signs were set up for selfish reasons: to preserve private parking privileges along public curb space, or to prevent spillover from other parking areas.
In some cases, these signs go up to protect a nicely manicured yard. Parking can be especially tough to find at beaches during the summer—and that’s exactly why many waterfront communities, from Virginia Beach to South Carolina to Malibu, are locked in a perennial war with fake signs. Sometimes, property owners go so far as to plant shrubs close to the roadside to fool drivers into thinking it’s illegal to park there.
Celebrities have been caught in the racket, too. Madonna was busted in 2016 for installing fake “Tenant Parking Only” signs in front of her Upper East Side townhouse. The Queen of Pop even went so far as to have “NO PARKING” embossed on the curb, which was painted bright yellow.
Mind you, fake signs are not always created with deception in mind. In March, a Los Angeles man installed official-looking signs imploring his neighbors to park more efficiently. And multiple pranksters have mocked New York’s ubiquitous “film shoot” signs, alleging the curb would be needed to house production vehicles for such long-awaited flicks as The Godfather Part IV and Do the Right Thing 2.
The rules over fake signs can be confusing—and, unfortunately, usually condone them. In many jurisdictions, all signage is seen as free speech, the same concept that allows you to plant a yard sign for your favorite candidate right along the sidewalk.
Having a complete map of the official things that regulate curb space—signs, curb cuts, paint, and so on—makes it easy for governments to identify and remove confusing (and illegal!) fake signs. When this information is publicly available, anyone can check to see whether that suspicious new paint job that happened to spring up overnight is legitimate—and if it isn’t, he or she can report it.
For example, the New York City Department of Transportation, which has mapped all of its street signs, has a special form for reporting private signs on public property. (The system does depend on someone updating the map to reflect any changes, but this the process is simple enough to add as a quick checklist item.)
This transparency and ease of use are just two of the many advantages Coord’s curb-mapping technology can bring to municipalities of all sizes.
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