On a pleasant day last November, a photographer named Renee Jacobs returned from a hike at Runyon Canyon and found a parking ticket on her car.
"It was like 'Oh, no, you can't be serious,' " Jacobs said. "It was just so 1984."
Jacobs had parked between two signs in the dirt lot atop the canyon, where a popular trail descends from Mulholland Drive to Hollywood.
The sign on the right says: "No Parking Anytime" with arrows pointing in both directions.
The sign on the left says: "No Parking Aunset to Sunrise" with arrows pointing both directions. That's not a typo -- at some point, a sticker saying "sunset to sunrise" had been slapped over the "anytime."
You may, by now, have realized the problem: It is both legal and illegal to park between the signs.
Jacobs was steamed because: A) she doesn't have $50 bills lying around waiting to be sent to the city of Los Angeles, and B) she and others regularly park between the signs without receiving tickets.
So, she decided to fight it. And promptly lost.
Why? City hearing officer Tamara Martin ruled last month that, "Respondent's vehicle was clearly parked in the area governed by the 'anytime' prohibition.
Jacobs is still peeved -- and out 50 clams. "I was just trying to convince the hearing officer that something was a little off," she said.
City parking officials didn't get back to us, by the way.
Taking a cue from Europe
Everyone has different strategies for getting around in the Land of Traffic.
Reinhard Kargl is a freelance science writer in Santa Monica. If he has a short errand or is going to the beach, he rides his bicycle. If he's going the four miles to work, he takes his scooter.
On longer trips that require the freeway, Kargl said he rides his motorcycle. If he has a business meeting or has to haul heavy equipment around, then he takes his car.
Kargl is especially taken with the scooter because it gets great gas mileage and is nimble and easy to park. "I grew up in Europe, and I laugh at gas prices at $4 because we had that back in the 1980s," he said. "In Europe scooters are used all over the place, in part because of the gas prices and the parking problem -- those old cities just weren't made for automobiles."
One of the arguments he makes is that scooters are environmentally friendly.
Because they're small, they require fewer materials to build. And they burn less fuel, meaning less carbon dioxide -- the main culprit behind global warming.
It should be noted that the California Air Resources Board says that many scooters and motorcycles produce more smog than cars, because they lack the emissions controls found in vehicles. Many riders, however, dispute that point.
That issue aside, Kargl apparently isn't alone in trying to find alternatives to Mr. Car.
I dropped by NoHo Scooters in North Hollywood last Thursday evening. Store owner Mike Frankovich had sold three scooters that day -- a good day in his line of work -- to people looking to keep their vehicles parked. Interesting.
Some odds and ends . . .
* What you get for going green with a two-wheeler: for every 100 million miles driven, 1.49 cars are involved in a fatal crash. That rate for motorcycles in 2006 was 39.8, so says the federal government. Gulp.
* We recently asked readers to suggest how to pay for better roads or mass transit: "Take every single freeway in Southern Cal and turn it into a toll road," wrote David Brady in an e-mail. "Not big tolls for a select group of drivers that want a converted HOV lane, but small tolls for every vehicle on the freeway (say $0.25 per vehicle)."
I'd pay a quarter. And you?
* And, finally, here's the latest tribute to Westside traffic from longtime Dodger season ticket-holder Kirk Murray, a Realtor in Malibu: "I used to go to evening games on weeknights all the time, and traffic was never a problem," he said.
Now, he almost never goes. Why? It takes two-plus hours to go from Malibu to downtown on the Santa Monica Freeway.
Which, of course, is pathetic.