Why do houses have driveways? You'd think you'd know, but you could be wrong

If I had a donut with my coffee, I'd eat it. Well, you'd think I would. After going to Tim Hortons, I'd drop my coffee cup in the cup holder, rip open my Tim Hortons bag fully of sugary yumminess and once back on the highway, take a big bite out of my glazed donut. Why wouldn't I? If I bought a donut, I intend on eating it. But somehow, people with driveways don't think that way. Well, some of them don't anyway. At least here in Berlin. Where there are driveways. Sometimes.


“I dare you make me reverse my car!”

You see, the thing is, cars parked on the road are visual clutter. Not the worse thing, I admit. But I have a big car. Streets are narrow here in this city so cars park on this side, then that side, then the other side again. Its like driving a slalom course down a hill. Until another car comes directly at you. Then its a game of chicken or in my case “I dare you to make me back up in my big car!”.

And should I mention this? Kids can run out between these parked cars and if the driver of an oncoming car is a bit dopey, you will end up with some very, very sad parents.

Why park on the road when you have a driveway anyway?

Yet, I have wondered why if someone has a driveway built into their property, why would they still prefer to park their car on the road. They bought the donut but they’d rather keep it in the bag. Now, I have to admit many European cities must deal with space, or the lack of it. Sure. I get that. I am Canadian. We have space and many houses have wide driveways, enough for two or even four cars parked in one driveway. But even with driveways, they got to be used, at least in the big cities. A car left overnight in Toronto, Ontario will get a parking ticket stuffed under the wiper blades, or worse. Other cities probably enforce such restrictions as well.

European cow paths

But not in Europe. Admittedly, European cities were not built for cars. Cars were an afterthought. Mind you, so were some of the oldest cities in Canada like Quebec City.

Roads in these ancient cities were just paved over horse lanes and cow paths. So why should they be wide two lane roads. Along come houses built in the 19th and 20th century and you’d think they’d have built driveways into the property to keep the cars of the road.

A bit narrow for cars today

Well, you’d be wrong. And you’d be right. Row houses, apartment buildings, and such were built to maximize the ratio of property to structure. A driveway meant lost revenue for the owners, so no lanes cut through these structures to make way for the cows that needed pasturing in the courtyards.

But what about those driveways?

After fifteen years in Europe, I got to wondering why driveways sit forlorn and sad while their cars sit happily on the road making a cluttered mess of the street, and a danger to little kids. So I asked my colleagues at work. My less than scientific study resulted in an astounding conclusion. “I just can’t be bothered getting out of the car, opening the gate, getting back into the car, driving in, then getting out again, closing the gate, then finally putting my car away for the night.

And there’s the answer. Not that they are lazy. It’s the gate!

“Tear down this gate!” Ok, wall, but its still a gate.

So, after all these years the real problem with cars parking on the road in European cities is the same everywhere. We will take the path of least resistance.

We would rather deal with winding our way along narrow roads, cars parked on this or that side, with the ever present danger of kids jumping out in front of us, and having to reverse gear like ‘Mator in the Cars movie, just so we don’t have to get out of our car and open the gate to use our driveway.

I like donuts. And if I bought one, well I am not about to let the dang thing sit there in a bag while it turns to mush because I can’t be bothered to eat it! No Tim Hortons donuts are ever going to go to waste when I am behind the wheel heading up some perfect road in back country Ontario.

Yet, in Europe the chances are 10% to 20% or more of a property is unused because someone in car can’t be bothered to get out of the car and open the damn gate!

This article was originally published on DriveTribe.