parking lotThey’re not all this big, but you get the pointPhoto: jgrimm FlickrOne of the silliest barriers to green urban development is mandatory sprawl, i.e. local zoning codes that require sprawl-style development, even when consumers (in the “free” market) want to buy property in walkable, compact developments.

And one of the craziest examples of this dilemma is mandatory parking for bars, as Straight Outta Suburbia points out:

Did you know that American cities usually require off-street parking at bars? To take a random example, the city of Long Beach, CA requires 20 parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of gross floor area for “taverns”. I don’t know what the city thinks people are doing at these bars, but I assure you it’s drinking.

This is how insane our mentality is. Even bars, businesses whose sole purpose is to sell alcohol for on-site consumption, “need” off-street parking. Even though we know that people drive to them, drink, and drive home. Drink and drive. Yeah, let’s make sure these people have plenty of free parking.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

But, you might say, those parking spots are for designated drivers. Uh, right. A Center for Disease Control site finds insufficient evidence that promoting designated drivers reduces alcohol-impaired driving.

If it were tougher to find parking around a bar, patrons would be more likely to walk, bike, get dropped off and picked up, or choose another watering hole.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

This is a prime example of a public health and safety goal (reducing drunk driving) and a sustainability goal (reducing driving) overlapping. And it’s one more instance in which sensible local policy could do some good (more ideas here), regardless of whether the Senate ever gets around to doing its job

It would probably take a focused campaign to get towns and states reconsidering their tavern parking policies. Any green groups want to collaborate with MADD?