There are quite a few similarities between Kyiv and other big cities around the world, but what fun is it reading about things like that? One of my purposes here is to point out some of the unique qualities of this unique place. These are things that I never knew existed before I got there. Knowing about them ahead of time would have made my transition there a bit easier. One such aspect of life in Kyiv is the public parking, such as it is. Every single day, for different reasons, I was quietly thankful that I never had to drive there. Parking was just one of those reasons.
On my first trip to Kyiv, I was walking down the street, not far from my hotel, which wasn’t an accident. I didn’t want to wind up in some random tunnel, trapped inside of an endless mall. As I was walking that first time, along a busy street, I was trying to figure out where to go. I wasn’t paying any attention to the traffic. It was just traffic, no different than what you see in any city in the world, or so it seemed. Vehicles of all sizes would whiz by, and it was all a barely noticeable din to me.
Suddenly, a car turned off the road and pulled RIGHT in front of me, stopping perpendicular to the direction in which I was walking. What was going on here? I was nowhere near an intersection. Who just pulls off onto a sidewalk in the middle of traffic? How come no one else walking nearby even gave this car a second look?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when the driver got out of the car. Was he looking for me? I kept my gaze downward and just kept walking, watching out of the corner of my eye. I was actually confused when the guy got out of the car and sauntered into a building, as if he was parking in a lot somewhere.
Just then I looked up the street and realized that there were cars all over the sidewalks on both sides of the road. I didn’t know this until my next trip there in the summer, when the concrete wasn’t covered in snow and ice, but there are little turnoffs from the road onto the sidewalks. As it turns out, there is such a dearth of parking in Kyiv that people at some point began pulling onto sidewalks and leaving their cars there.
Apparently, this was not legal, but no one seemed to enforce it. I even saw a few folks waving cars onto sidewalks and taking money from the drivers before leaving left their cars. I chuckled thinking about how excited any of our parking police would be if they encountered such a scene. It’d be a ticket-writing bonanza.
Since we’ve come home, the government there has taken steps to deal with this. A few months ago, the Ukrainian legislature passed a bill stating that sidewalk parkers would be ticketed. I wonder if that’ll actually make a difference, as a lot of laws that exist there seem more like suggestions. That’s sort of how things work in that part of the world.
The whole scenario was also just another example of how the people there take it upon themselves to find their own solutions to things. For most of my life, when Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, I was taught that pretty much every aspect of life was controlled by the government. Even I could tell that this is not how things are these days in a lot of respects. Parking on the sidewalks – something someone must have just decided to do one day and others followed – is one example of this. As I said, it’s an interesting place.