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Call Out Poorly Parked Cars With the App 'TowIt'

One developer’s weapon against lousy drivers and vans blocking the bike lane.

A prime offender rides the curb in San Francisco. (TowIt)

The next time you see a parked car attempting to mate with a curb, as shown above, you can leave a nasty note on its windshield.

Or, if you have the app TowIt, you could snap a photo and (in theory) flag it for a good towin’.

The aggressive app, available in Google and Apple versions, “allows civilians to report selfish or illegal parking and dangerous driving in real time,” say its makers. “TowIt works with municipal governments, local law enforcement, and towing companies to remove the barriers required to make cities effectively fight and deter bad parking and dangerous driving habits.”

The app was developed by Michael McArthur in Toronto, where it’s reportedly caught on among local cyclists. He hopes the geotagged map of parking offenders will be of use to the authorities—which is kind of a weakness, as the app’s effectiveness relies on cops and towers actively monitoring it. Here’s McArthur’s vision, as described to the Toronto Star:

McArthur says he has met with the some of the mayor’s staff, and has also reached out Traffic Services, who have contacted him to discuss the app. [sic] “I am offering the police a free solution, with no cost to them and no cost to the taxpayers, that is just going to make them more efficient, which in turn will save them or make them more money, so I can’t understand why they would say no to such a thing unless they are against innovation.”

Right now, the app seems most useful for shaming lousy parkers online. Most of the reports hail from Toronto, though there are a few in U.S. cities like San Francisco, Houston, and New York, where, hilariously, somebody’s tagged a police van:

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.