Could the Bar­na­cle re­place the clamp?


The lat­est tool in the bat­tle against those who flout park­ing laws is a de­vice that looks as harm­less as SpongeBob SquarePants but sticks to an of­fender’s car like a bar­na­cle.

Hence, its name: the Bar­na­cle, a park­ing en­force­ment de­vice that its in­ven­tors say could re­place the steel boot.

Both de­vices are in­tended to im­mo­bilise a ve­hi­cle un­til the own­ers pay out­stand­ing tickets. The boot goes on a wheel. The Bar­na­cle at­taches to an of­fender’s wind­shield with gi­ant suc­tion cups and blocks the driver’s vi­sion. If you try to tam­per with it, the de­vice sounds an alarm. Even if you break the shell, its twin suc­tion cups keep hold­ing on for dear life, or at least for pay­ment, as one un­happy Penn­syl­va­nia mo­torist found out. It even comes with a GPS de­vice in some mod­els that will help the law track you down.

Jon Haney, who is scofflaw (a per­son who flouts the law, es­pe­cially by fail­ing to com­ply with a law that is dif­fi­cult to en­force ef­fec­tively) su­per­vi­sor (ac­tual ti­tle) at the Al­len­town Park­ing Author­ity in Penn­syl­va­nia, spoke glow­ingly of the thing.

‘‘If you’ve ever seen a glass com­pany truck driv­ing down the road and seen work­ers car­ry­ing glass pan­els with those suc­tion cups they put on them – it’s a very sim­i­lar con­cept.’’ Haney said the de­vice has been a hit with park­ing en­force­ment of­fi­cers. The Bar­na­cle is lighter than the solid steel boots that at­tach to a scofflaw’s ve­hi­cle – about 7 kilo­grams v 13kg or more for the boot/clamp, Haney said – and it can be ap­plied more safely and eas­ily. At­tach­ing a solid steel boot of­ten means bend­ing down, or al­most ly­ing on the street to get the thing on, usu­ally on the traf­fic side of a parked car.

‘‘It makes [park­ing en­force­ment crews] some­what vul­ner­a­ble.’’ None of the agency’s 10 park­ing en­force­ment of­fi­cers has been in­jured – other than some scraped knuck­les on as­phalt, Haney said – but why take chances? The Bar­na­cle can be ap­plied from the side­walk; a coded key­pad locks the suc­tion cups into place.

The Bar­na­cle has a ma­ni­a­cal grip, Haney said. One scofflaw did man­age to break off the yel­low shell but dis­cov­ered that those suc­tion cups weren’t com­ing loose un­til the ticket was paid.

‘‘I like to say in that in­stance, that the Bar­na­cle lost the bat­tle but we won the war.,’’ Haney said. He said so far, no one has been brave enough, or fool­hardy enough, to drive off Ace Ven­turastyle with his head out the win­dow.

Of course, peo­ple still haven’t learned that it doesn’t pay to tam­per with the stur­dier-look­ing boot, ei­ther.

‘‘Peo­ple try that all the time,’’ Haney said. ‘‘Gen­er­ally, we’ll come back to a ve­hi­cle and find the boot’s in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion be­cause they’ve yanked on it, pulled on it, kicked it, tried to move the car to see what they can do.’’ One scofflaw de­cided to try to drive off with a boot on.

‘‘He’s go­ing down the road with sparks fly­ing. He did okay un­til he tried to make a turn, and then the car just went straight and crashed.’’ Po­lice took care of the rest.

In Al­len­town, park­ing scofflaws risk get­ting booted by let­ting just a sin­gle ticket go un­paid for 46 days or more. Whether they get the boot or the Bar­na­cle, they have to pay the out­stand­ing fine and a $50 boot­ing fee be­fore the de­vice comes off.

‘‘It doesn’t pay to get tickets. It’s much eas­ier to park legally,’’ Haney said.

And speak­ing of un­der­state­ment, there’s this sen­tence from Ideas that Stick, the Bar­na­cle’s man­u­fac­turer: ‘‘We know that most peo­ple re­solve their park­ing vi­o­la­tions on their own, but some need a more com­pelling method of en­sur­ing they pay their debt,’’ its web­site says.

The Al­len­town Park­ing Author­ity has been us­ing the de­vice as part of a pi­lot pro­gramme that be­gan in Au­gust 2016 and will end later this month, Haney said. Each de­vice set the agency back about US$600; it’s US$12 per de­vice per month if the GPS op­tion is added, he said.

The de­vice has been writ­ten up by Ci­tyLab and oth­ers. With each new hit of me­dia ex­po­sure, the city park­ing agency re­ceives more calls and emails from other ju­ris­dic­tions in­quir­ing about the de­vice. Haney said he couldn’t re­call if Wash­ing­ton, DC’s city gov­ern­ment had shown in­ter­est, but he most re­cently heard from Sin­ga­pore.

As the world spi­rals to­ward apoca­lypse at times, it’s good to re­mem­ber that some peo­ple have their noses down, fo­cused on such gritty top­ics as en­forc­ing park­ing laws with a new­fan­gled de­vice. But will it catch on?

The Bar­na­cle, a de­vice that its in­ven­tors say could re­place the steel boot for those flout park­ing laws.

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