It may not occur to most of us, but we only drive our vehicles for about 10 per cent of the time we own them. The other 90 per cent is spent outside the vehicle, where it is left parked in our basement or some other lot. And by that simple logic, it makes it necessary to talk about the various aspects of the much-ignored topic.
Parking is hard
Without doubt, parking is a tough skill to master for some. And it can be as nerve-racking as taking on frantic Monday morning traffic. The act of steering into a slot — about 20 per cent bigger than the vehicle itself — isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. And who can blame them? There are so many types, and the different vehicle dimensions and traffic conditions add to the complexity of the whole maneuver. First, you have parallel parking, which even the most seasoned drivers make a mess of, especially during the traffic hours. In fact, they’ve even coined a term for the fear of parallel parking, it is called ‘Parallelophobia’. Then you have garage parking, which can also be daunting, simply because not everyone lives in villa with wide open spaces, instead they have to park between pillars. And the third is angle parking… which is the easiest of the three.
Parking can also be hard because we live in a city where the number of cars per capita is high. And it’s tough to find an open spot sometimes. Even in Dubai Mall, with its multistorey parking lots with an incredible 14,500 parking spots, it can take up to 30-45 minutes to find one on a weekend. And that is why it is equally important to know to the layouts of these behemoth concrete structures. If you have something to buy in a hurry, you better know the entry and exit points, and shop locations too.
Perhaps, the number one rule of parking is to not take more than one spot. Quite regularly we see cars taking two, by mostly entitled luxury car or large SUV owners. Remember if you take two, someone else loses one. And in a fast-paced city, where people are always on the move, they can end up losing time, money, a job opportunity, a business deal, etc.
Second on the list is the malicious act of stealing spots. It may not be a punishable offence, but it is against all ethical codes. The other night I saw a woman walk right into and stand in spot while another motorist was trying to park. This was her way of reserving the spot, while she waited for her friend to come around. This isn’t how it works and certainly we shouldn’t encourage this kind of behaviour. My suggestion is, if you are in a hurry, ask nicely and the other person may let you have it.
We also have individuals parking in spots reserved for persons of determination or green vehicles. Don’t do it, even if your car is green in colour.
Then we have the other problem of shopping carts. It is a privilege to be able to roll them out from the supermarkets into the lots, but also makes it our responsibility for putting them back in the designated areas, once done. Leaving them behind another person’s vehicle is bad but leaving them loose with the chance of rolling into the driving lanes is worse.
There exists an unspoken etiquette for ‘kacha’ parking as well. It is best to mimic the arrangement of the regular paved parking lots. This means that you should park parallel to other vehicles, leaving a lane for people to drive in and out. And you always have to make sure the car next to you isn’t blocked in any way.
Tech in parking
It’s great to see that technology has been put to good use in parking lots as well. The generic system used in most malls displays number of taken and open spots. Some lots can even highlight each individual spot with a green or red light depending on its status. In more advanced systems, like that in BurJuman Mall, you don’t have to insert your parking ticket into the machine on your way out. The system of cameras and AI recognises your plate number and opens the gate up if you have paid for your time or are leaving within the allotted duration. And in Dubai Mall, you can locate your vehicle using the electronic kiosk, which is much needed considering the total number of spots there.
While we’d all like to enjoy free parking all over town, that is not the case. That being said, Dubai is very affordable when compared to cities like New York, London and Zurich when it comes to parking fees. And the government has made it easy to pay through multiple channels. You can pay via SMS, you can pay at the station using a Nol or credit card… or you can pay via the app which saves you some fils.
One thing I don’t understand is why residential buildings don’t have free visitor parking spots. One minute you think you are going to a cousin’s house for a fun family weekend brunch in Business Bay and the next, you feel uninvited when you see the Dh25 per hour rate.
As vain as it sounds, paid parking in the form of valet parking can also be a way of making a statement. Having your Rolls-Royce or Bentley parked at the entrance of a fancy hotel or mall is one way of flaunting your financial success.