John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
It sucks onto the windshield and can’t be removed until drivers call to pay a fine.
Imagine arriving at your badly parked car to find some… thing latched onto the windshield like a blocky, yellow leach. That’s a reality motorists are living with in the U.S., as cities test out a vision-blocking penalty panel called the “Barnacle.”
The concept behind the apparatus, made by New York’s Ideas That Stick, is simple: It’s a rugged plastic rectangle that attaches with incredible force to the windshield, and can’t be removed until motorists pay a fine over the phone and get a release code. Adding insult to injury, drivers are then expected to return it to a drop-off location within 24 hours.
If they try to move the car or pry the “Barnacle” off, a la Homer Simpson jackhammering a boot, an alarm goes off. And if they huck it into a dumpster after paying the penalty, a GPS tracker will keep it on parking enforcement’s radar. Here’s what it looks like from inside a car, dual-wielding its industrial-grade suction cups:
Two U.S. cities are using “Barnacles” on a free-trial basis this year: Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Allentown, Pennsylvania. “We wanted to see how the ‘Barnacle’ held up in a variety of environments, and Fort Lauderdale’s heat and humidity made it a perfect test market,” says the company’s president, Kevin Dougherty.
Fort Lauderdale wanted to try the “Barnacle” partly out of concern for the well-being of its parking enforcers. “Since the ‘Barnacle’ can be installed on the front window of a vehicle from the safety of a sidewalk or curb, officers do not have to kneel down on the street, often with their backs to traffic, as they do with a boot device,” says city spokeswoman Monique Damiano. “This significantly reduces the chances of our officers being struck by passing cars.”
“Other reasons [we] wanted to test the prototype,” she adds, “are that it is quick and easy to install, easier to transport and store, and due to its compact size officers are able to carry more of the devices in their vehicles.”
The city’s only used “Barnacles” about 15 times, and Damiano says it’s too early to talk about results. But if this idea catches on in America, don’t be surprised to see irate motorists driving around, alarms screeching, with their heads out the window.