Why I’m Donating my Insurance Settlement to the Parking Reform Network

One year ago, a pickup truck hit me on my bike in a hit-and-run while going to breakfast in Tempe, Arizona. The collision broke my collarbone, resulting in an incredibly frustrating three months of not being able to use my right arm while it healed.

Fortunately, my collarbone is fully recovered now. But I want to live in a world where collisions like this stop happening. So, I am donating $25k of the $28.8k* insurance settlement to the Parking Reform Network.

Picture of Eric lying down on a hospital bed right after the collision
The emergency room after the collision

There are no Accidents

In There Are No Accidents: The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster—Who Profits and Who Pays the Price, Jessie Singer argues we should stop using the word “accident” like we’d normally call the truck hitting me.

Humans make mistakes—that’s part of being human! But by calling the negative outcomes nothing more than an “accident”, we stop all curiosity. How did the mistake happen in the first place? How can we redesign systems so that we’re less likely to make the mistake? And when we make those mistakes—which we will—how can we make the impact less fatal?

In World War 2, B-17 pilots kept crashing. 457 crashes. At first, the Air Force explained it as “pilot error”, e.g. laziness. But Alfonso Chapanis realized something: the lever for landing gear looked identical to the one for wing flaps. It was “designer error”, not “pilot error”. After changing the levers to be unique shapes, the crash rate dramatically dropped.

Picture of an airplane control panel showing identical looking levers for landing gears and wing flaps.
The red boxes highlight the identical switches for landing gear and wing flaps.

We can also make mistakes less costly. Airbags reduce driver deaths by ~28% in frontal crashes. They were invented in the 1960s, yet when do you think they were legally required to be installed in the US? 1998.

I was hit by a large pickup truck. This is the front blind spot of a modern Cadillac Escalade: 13 kids until the driver can see someone!

Picture of a modern Cadillac Escalade with 13 kids sitting in front of it.
It Took 13 Kids In Line For An SUV Driver To Spot Them

Pickup trucks and SUVs are far more likely to hit pedestrians. When they do, the results are much worse, such as killing 100% of pedestrians at speeds of 40+ mph vs 54% with sedans. (Likewise, if SUVs were a country, they would be the sixth most polluting country in the world). Recognizing how dangerous contemporary SUVs are, France has added a weight tax to discourage their purchase.

Below is the intersection where I was hit. The pedestrian sign was on, and the truck hit me making a right-hand turn. That likely wouldn’t have happened if we banned right turns on red lights.

Picture showing the intersection where a vehicule crashed into Eric.

Why Parking Reform?

The U.S. and Canada have pseudoscientific parking laws that require builders to construct a minimum amount of parking spaces. For example, in Mount Vernon WA, a bowling alley requires 5+ spaces for the whole building; but in San Jose CA, you need 7+ spaces per lane

In the U.S., we have 8 parking spaces per person, taking up one-third of the land in cities. Even during peak events like Black Friday, many of these lots sit empty:

Picture of Walmart parking lot on Black Friday. Over 90% of the spots are empty
A Walmart parking lot on Black Friday.

The parking reform movement fights to remove these costly mandates so that builders can design what makes the most sense for their residents and customers.

These esoteric parking mandates help explain why North America is so auto-dominated:

Figure showing the vicious cycle of parking requirements. See https://culdesac.com/blog/post/the-vicious-cycle-of-parking-requirements for a blog post describing the graphic

This auto-addiction contributes to why our roads are so hostile to bikers and pedestrians. So, by pushing back on auto-dominance, parking reform indirectly makes our roads safer.

Other Motivations: Housing and Climate Emergencies

Beyond road safety, the Parking Reform Network is the best opportunity I’ve found as a donor to also address the housing affordability crisis and the climate emergency.

As a volunteer crisis counselor with The Trevor Project, I had too many conversations with LGBTQ youth who desperately wanted to leave toxic and abusive home situations, but couldn’t afford to move out. Housing affordability matters.

It’s estimated that, on average, parking accounts for $225/m of rent, both because of its high cost to install and taking valuable land that could be used for more housing. The mandates also force people into a car-dependent life, with the average American spending $10,700/year on their car.

How do we know parking reform improves housing affordability? Oregon’s relaxing of parking requirements in 2023 is estimated to make 37,000 potential homes less expensive to build and more likely to actually happen. 

Pacific Avenue Apartments in Beaverton
Pacific Avenue Apartments in Beaverton. Parking mandates nearly cancelled it, but it came back with 40% more units than before.

With the climate emergency, parking reform is key to shrinking the U.S.’s auto emissions and sprawl. (Electric vehicles are not enough of a solution.)

One reason I find parking reform high value: carbon lock-in. It’s expensive and slow to change infrastructure. The unnecessary parking we build vs. avoid now in 2023 will shape our carbon emissions for years.

Why Parking Reform Network?

Parking Reform Network has been key to wins like California repealing parking minimums near public transit.

The organization’s operating budget in 2022 was roughly $20,000. They would be able to dramatically accelerate their progress with more funds, including hiring their first staff and giving mini-grants to local campaigns.

$25k is a real sacrifice for me. But I want to live in a world where I can safely bike to breakfast. If you agree, I encourage you to donate here.

*I incorrectly said on a War On Cars podcast last month that I was planning to donate $30k, when I’m donating $25k. The settlement was for $28.8k, and I decided to use $3.8k to help cover the medical and therapy expenses. I regret that I was not careful with my words.
**As disclosed in my post about donating a majority of my income, this donation is possible due to privileges like a high income as a software engineer. This blog is not meant to compare.

2 thoughts on “Why I’m Donating my Insurance Settlement to the Parking Reform Network”

  1. Well done, Eric! Thank you very much for your insights and support. Yes, parking reform is one of the most effective ways that communities can reduce excessive driving and increase safety.

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