Vehicle: Car: Parking: Free Spot
Park Here flag   (+32, -4)  [vote for, against]
No more trolling the parking lot

A very simple spring-mounted flag and pole - as tall as a parking space is long - mounted at open end of the parking space.
When no car occupies the space the flag springs up. It's height should be sufficient to make it visible over almost any vehicle. When someone pulls into the space they simply 'knock the flag over' as the spring bends at the base. A hinge or channel is necessary to avoid hitting cars in neighboring spaces.
Fiberglass or epoxy might work for the pole itself as we need heat resistance and durability. The flag could be a plain color, have the business' logo or product advertisements.
Note that this could be sold as a retrofit kit and simply nailed into the pavement. Also, it wouldn't be necessary to have one in every space - just the coveted five or ten closest to the store.
-- phoenix, Oct 20 2001

(?) My alternate Park Here flag design http://www.geocitie...uissant/before.html
Ok, so I draw like a 4 year old. But hopefully you get the idea. [mighty_cheese, Oct 20 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Phoenix rising.
-- thumbwax, Oct 20 2001

And every winter the snowplows would rip them off the road and break them, and every summer they'd have to be replaced. Fishbone for your southern-climate-only idea.
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 20 2001

i like it... but... what about things like motorcycles? yes, one silly exception shouldn't be enough to kill the whole idea, and i like it myself... plus, unless it's snowing a good 10 feet or so, the flags should show *over* the snow and give the plows a chance to miss them (or remove them before snowfall? or have a main mechanism to "collapse" all of them if the weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse, leaving them flat and less likely to be sheared off?)... i like the idea :)
-- Urania, Oct 20 2001

I honestly hadn't considered snow. And I haven't figured out a way to use this for a parallel parking space.
Since I was thinking primarily about parking garages and commercial (shopping mall) lots, I didn't give much consideration to motorcycles either. Surely there's some way to fix these minor problems, though.
I'll have to give this some thought.
-- phoenix, Oct 20 2001

I thought maybe the poles could be designed similar to a telescope to avoid the bending over problem, they could be activated be sencors when the car wheels appoach or leave and operate more in an up and down sequence rather than bend over. The poles could be housed under the parking area and could also be locked in to avoid vandalism, when no one is occupying the space when the car park is closed.
-- vimto, Oct 20 2001

Urania: The visibility of the flags in snow isn't a problem. If the snowplow driver can see them but has to go around them, there will be no parking spaces in the winter, since they will be filled with snow. Now you'll be forced to find somewhere else to park, where there are no "Park Here Flags", which sort of makes them useless. Here in Australia most roads have little reflectors in the centre. In Canada roads don't have them because even though snowplow operators know they are there, they can't not plow the centre of the road, which means the reflectors would all be ripped up. Same principle.
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 21 2001

To answer the snowplow dilemma, the flag should be built to lie in a depression, flush with the road. The snowplow could then simply push the flag down as would a car.

I think the flags shouls also have wheels at the top for reversing out of spots
-- jabbers, Oct 21 2001

Depressions in the road surface cause water to collect. This water freezes and causes the road surface to crack. Passing Snowplows rip out large chunks of the pavement (and "park here flags") resulting in potholes.

Solution? Pave the roads with concrete (ie. hwy 407, north or Toronto, Ontario). Expensive, but effective.
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 21 2001

How about magnetic sensors, similar to what is used to detect vehicles at traffic lights (and, yes, they do work for motorcycles, at least they do here in Seattle), to trigger a small "park here" sign or strobe-light mounted atop a pylon when a vehicle is not parked in the stall? This solution would have no moving parts, no snowplow problem, and low maintenance. Yes, the initial cost might be a bit higher but I'll bet not by much..

Perhaps the lighting of the "space available" sign is delayed until, say, 30 seconds after the detector no longer picks up the car's presence, to ease congestion for the car leaving.

This notion could be extended so that, at the entrance to the parking area an easily read lot diagram would show the entering drivers where the vacancies are so that they could immediately head in the right direction. If every lot had the system, the info could be published to the 'net and read by mapping and telematics systems in the cars, directing them towards those lots that have available parking. Maybe even "parking reports" on the radio, along with the traffic reports. Society might even witness the emergence of a new "parking reports" broadcast personality to go along with the weather guy, and traffic reporter.
-- bristolz, Oct 21 2001

Nice fix [bristolz]. A little IR transceiver and a light. Need to power it all, though...
-- phoenix, Oct 22 2001

//the info could be published to the 'net and read by mapping and telematics systems in the cars//

bristolz, I like your idea, however I can imagine large numbers of cars screaming towards the one parking space that has just become free right in front of the entrance to the store. Perhaps some sort of program that assigns the parking spaces on a first come, first served basis would fix that?
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 22 2001

About the motorcycle problem, I thought they were suppose to park in their own little spaces. I know it drives me mad when I think I see a space that is open and a damn motorcycle is in it. I was elated to giggles one day when I pulled into the school parking lot and saw a VW bug had parked in the motorcycle parking spaces. Poor sucker got a ticket though.

Also, about the snow, just nail the base of the contraption beneath the surface of the asphult and make sure the rod can bend where it meets the surface. That way the snowplows can still do their thing and the populous can still do their thing.
-- barnzenen, Oct 22 2001

[barnzenen] That motorcycles frequently have their own spaces is what I was getting at when I mentioned malls and commercial lots. Recessing the hinge (and the pole and the flag) works wonders for the idea, but makes it harder to implement as a retrofit. Still, if consumer comfort is of any consequence to the proprietor, it might be a worthwhile upgrade. Especially since the cost could be deferred through advertising revenue.
-- phoenix, Oct 22 2001

If the pole is *up* when there is no car there, there should be no problem with having plows hitting them...or am I just confused? I mean, the plow doesn't hit parking meters, so why should it hit these poles? I'm assuming that the poles are in the *front* of the parking space...
-- Galileo, Oct 23 2001

No, [Galileo], I think you missed an important fact or two. The flag is located at the entrace to the parking space, so that a car pulling in will push over the flag as it does so. A snow plow will be unable to enter a parking space to clear the snow, unless it first runs over the flag and its base. Since a snow plow has zero ground clearance, it would shear off the flag's base where it anchors to the pavement, unless the flag is mounted in a trench. But then the snow would fill the trench and block the flag from going down properly, and the flag would get damaged anyway.
-- BigBrother, Oct 23 2001

How about a method to lock the flag in the down position when inclement weather is expected? Not having the flags available probably wouldn't be a big deal during a snowstorm anyway. This would only work if the assembly is countersunk into the pavement though.
-- phoenix, Oct 23 2001

How about a heated parking lot so as to eliminate the need for snowplows?
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 24 2001

Wheels-to-sleigh conversions so we can move around *on* snow without having to plow.
-- hello_c, Oct 24 2001

well if we had two rows of parking spaces that are back to back then the flags could be in the entrances and the buldozer could enter at the end of the row and have a path the size of 2 parking spaces to drive along...
-- RobertKidney, Oct 24 2001

Yes, Robert, but then the snowplow would leave a huge snowbank at the mouth of all the spaces. They'd be clear, but you wouldn't be able to drive into them unless you entered from the end of the row, like the snowplow.

How about parking in man-made salt flats? The snow will melt on contact. The cars might also rust on contact, but you get that.
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 24 2001

Thanks for clarifying, [BigBrother], I guess I was just confused. Of course, I usually am anyway...
-- Galileo, Oct 28 2001

there could be tipping devices at the entrances to the spaces that lies flat with the ground so cars can drive over it. When the bulldozer has cleared a space the tipping device would tip the snow out of the entrance into the path between the spaces. The snowplow could then clear that.
-- RobertKidney, Oct 28 2001

How about if all of the park here flags were used as a giant array antenna that beamed anti-snow, weather-altering energy into the clouds, thereby eliminating the need for snowplows altogether?
-- bristolz, Oct 28 2001

Or we could use magic to remove the snow. Or we could ask god to do it.
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 29 2001

I was thinking of a steel plate around 1 foot wide and going across the front of the parking space. It would be hinged at the pointing outwards end and have some hydraulics underneath. It doesn't use GM or clockwork or bluetooth or custard...
-- RobertKidney, Oct 29 2001

This wouldn't work at all, outside in winter.

1. When a vehicle pulls into a parking spot, the flag would lower.

2. Chunks of snow would fall off the vehicle while parking, tires would compact the snow on top of the flag "pole", holding it down.

3. Or, if it's sunny, snow on the vehicle (wheel-wells, etc.) will melt, run off and underneath, freezing the flag in place.
-- snowbunny, Oct 29 2001

the flags are heated... yes ... or maybe just extremely powerful hydraulics...
-- RobertKidney, Oct 29 2001

It's odd that everyone has gotten hung up on the snowplow thing. Is that the only problem with this idea? Mind you, it's only a problem if we don't recess the flag assembly, but here are some other solutions to the snowplow issue:
1) Only market the device in areas that don't have snowplows.
2) Use flat 'poles' instead of cylindrical ones and remove the flag. Counter sink just the hinge assembly. (I think this would make them more suseptible to being stuck to the ground).
3) Make the flag poles easily removable or disposable.

Welcome to the HB [snowbunny]. Some problems with your logic:
1) Snow doesn't tend to adhere to the underside of automobiles. The snow that does either falls off while the vehicle is in motion or accumulates in the wheel wells where it will be out of the way of the pole.
2) While it's possible that a vehicle might be in a parking space long enough for snow to melt and refreeze, I think the amount of surface area in contact with the ground would be insufficent to overcome the tension of the spring/hinge mechanism.

I was thinking of brightly colored poles, but perhaps the poles themselves could be black to store solor energy and just the pole tips or flags themselves are brightly colored.

By the way, I'd like to thank everyone for the feedback (positive and negative) on this idea.
-- phoenix, Oct 29 2001

//Snow doesn't tend to adhere to the underside of automobiles. The snow that does either falls off while the vehicle is in motion or accumulates in the wheel wells where it will be out of the way of the pole.//

I don't know what part of the world you're from, but that remark leads me to believe you've never spent a winter in Canada. Snow sticks to everything, mostly because it's usually mixed with road-salt. How will the flags deal with salt or sand put down in parking lots? It would be nearly impossible to keep any sort or depression free of snow and ice. What happens when there is a thaw, followed by a quick freeze? The depression would likely be full of ice. I can't see this working in any place that receives regular heavy snowfalls.

My suggestion is a unit designed to be mounted on the kerb with a pole sticking up from the kerb and a crossbar out over the parking space. A flag at the end of the crossbar points out from the space horizontally (not too far, or it will be sheared off by passing trucks). A padded spring (attached by a cable through the pole and crossbar) is mounted on the pole that is pushed in when the car parks, thus releasing the tension on the flag, and allowing it to droop. The pole could be part of a parking meter assembly.
-- mighty_cheese, Oct 29 2001

The suggestions with infra red sensors and such are bad because the basic idea here is simplicity and cheapness. A pole with a little flag shouldn't be too expensive. And it shouldn't be too wide in diameter, I think around 2cm should be just fine.
-- janko, Oct 29 2001

Being a New York native, I have eternal respect for anyone attempting to improve my parking experience. Odds are that when you spot a flag it will be in a handicap space anyway…so let it snow let it snow let it snow…
-- 1MilesWest2, Oct 30 2001

How about if all of the park here flags were used as a giant array antenna that beamed anti-snow, weather-altering energy into the clouds, thereby eliminating the need for snowplows altogether?

Gee, bristolz, an here I've been worrying about the Greenhouse effect and the hole in the ozone layer!

-- Mousey, Oct 30 2001

Clearly, you worry too much
-- bristolz, Oct 30 2001

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