This morning I was looking again at the pictures I put up on Monday of the construction site for Ryon Lab. I was, of course, thinking about the big parking lot out there and I couldn’t help but notice the strange zigzag pattern painted down the middle of it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like that and I wonder what it’s purpose was, if indeed it had any purpose. Zoom in and you can see it here in this photo:
I thought about this for a while, troubled by a niggling sense that maybe I had seen this zigzag somewhere after all. Ten minutes ago I figured it out. Here’s an image from a completely different collection—the papers of long time Civil Engineering professor and administrator Jim Sims (’41)—and there’s the zigzag:
It’s somewhat cryptically labeled “Civil Engineering Experiment” and dated 1959. A second picture makes it clear that this is the same parking lot as the one above:
I have no idea what this experiment is about but it seems to be lined up right behind the edge separating the construction site from the parking lot in the first photo.
I feel both oddly proud of myself and rather abashed that I’ve managed to hone such a peculiar expertise to so fine a point.
Bonus: Just for fun, here’s Jim Sims.
I’ve seen those zigzag patterns painted on streets in Europe, too. I surmised that they had to do with parking (or not). Not certain that I’ve seen them in U.S.
They appear to be older hints at parking spaces.
The paint is faded, but each “space” also has a faded oil-patch associated with it, much the way the more recent marked parking spaces do.
It’s a pretty cheap way to paint a lot – not nearly as much paint as the more modern markings.
Cars were a lot leakier back then (I should know – only the most recent vehicle in my stable doesn’t drip).
I’m going to guess that the zig-zag is paint striping for parking spaces. The second photo appears to be taken earlier, and most of the spaces are diagonal, with the direction of travel right to left.
In the first photo, the zig-zag appears to be faded and the parking spaces are now delineated in a pattern perpendicular to the curb and direction of travel, which might also be two-way.
Good observation on the oil spots, Grungy. Parking at the zig-zag must have been two-way.
Zigzag means “no parking.” Apparently it’s quite common and well known in the UK, less so here.
True. Googling images for “zig zag” and “no parking” will show a wide variety of examples. Modern ones seem to have large angles that are clearly not parking spaces. But older ones with right-angles could be either, depending on location.
Of course, in the second photo, several cars are parked as if the zig-zag defined parking spaces in that lot. And then there are the vestigial oil spots that Grungy pointed out.
On closer inspection I see the vestigial oil spots. Yes, you are right, there’s little doubt that cars were parked that way as seen in the second photo, and it had fallen out of favor by the mid-60s.
Yes, the first photo is ’65-ish, the second photo is ’59-ish. In the second photo, the car next to the ’57 Ford in front is a Morris Minor, sort of the Hyundai Accent of its day. The Advance Design Chevy truck a few cars over has fender-mount turn signals, a common addition pre-’54.
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