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Can I Park Here? Your Handbook To Painted Curbs in California

By Kimberlea Buczeke - May 17th 2017
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yellow painted curb

Every region has its own unique set of driving expectations and California is no exception. Though visitors may be uninformed, local drivers and law enforcement will still expect them to know how to follow the less than clear rules of the road. RepairPal's home in San Francisco can be especially tough with every color under the sun painted on curbs, posts, signs, and meters. The tickets in the Bay Area will set you back a pretty penny too!

Understanding the code of painted curbs is a strong first step to parking confidently and correctly while driving in the Golden State.

The Quick Check Guide to Painted Curbs

Red - No Stopping, Parking, or Standing - Emergency Vehicles Only
Blue - Handicap Parking Only
White - Stopping but No Parking - Passenger Loading and Unloading
Yellow - Stopping but No Parking, Commercial Loading and Unloading
Green - Limited or Short Time Parking, Look for Signs for Time Interval (Usually Around 10 Minutes)

red curb

What Do Red Curbs Mean?

Emergency parking or strictly prohibited. With or without signs, don’t even linger on a red curb. These reserved locations are either for emergency vehicles or otherwise prohibited for your safety. Staying with your car does not protect you from a ticket when parked on a red curb. I've definitely seen multiple Uber or Lyft drivers in the city doing a quick pick up or drop off in a red zone just to have a police officer immediately block them in from behind to write them a hefty ticket – yikes!

blue painted curb

What Do Blue Curbs Mean?

Blue means that your car needs a special sign indicating that it is a handicapped vehicle. This can be a special license plate, windshield sticker, or a mirror tag but if you don't already have one, you shouldn't park on blue. You may be able to avoid a ticket by staying with your car in a blue zone, but it’s honestly considered morally wrong to take up handicapped parking, especially if there's someone who truly needs that spot.

white painted curb

What Do White Curbs Mean?

White curbs are for passenger loading and unloading. You may see these in airports, school drop-off circles, malls, and large restaurants. These exchanges are not meant to take long and drivers are not encouraged to leave their cars while in a white zone. White zones can sometimes come with a time limit of five minutes, so be wary of that when pulling up.

yellow curb

What Do Yellow Curbs Mean?

These are for cargo loading and unloading. Because this process can take much longer than passenger movements, the time limit is a little longer on yellow curbs but only if you’re actually loading cargo. You'll need commercial plates to stop here as well. Non-commercial drivers are advised to stay with their vehicles to avoid ticketing for parking on a yellow curb. Your car could be swiftly towed!

green curb

What Do Green Curbs Mean?

You can park at these! Just not forever. Usually, green curbs are either painted, marked with signs, or both in order to show drivers how long parking is allowed. These intervals can vary – sometimes just 5 minutes – but make sure you don’t park too long! My experience in the past is that green curbs are pretty solidly patrolled during the daytime hours.

white curb

What Do Unpainted Curbs Mean?

Don’t assume than an unpainted curb automatically means penalty free parking. There are still the usual and some very specific limitations on where your car can be legally parked in California. 

Look up and around you, always! Signs will tell you about towing times and permit times. For example, in San Francisco, most impacted neighborhood parking requires a letter permit on your vehicle. This designates that you live in the neighborhood. Without it, you're limited to two hours before you'll be slapped with a sizeable ticket.

Here are a couple more places not to park:

  • Within three feet of a ramp or other wheelchair access to a sidewalk
  • Blocking a crosswalk, sidewalk, or driveway
  • Spaces designated for refueling or parking of zero emission vehicles
  • In a tunnel or on a bridge except in specially marked zones
  • On or within 7.5 feet of a railroad track
  • Double-parked or on the wrong side of the street
  • On a freeway without an emergency situation

California is a place notorious for fast cars and strict traffic laws. Make the most of the time you’re driving thereby familiarizing yourself with exactly how and when to park.


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