Guest Column–Peter Bella: Snow is coming. Dibs is coming.

 by Peter Bella

Tis the season of the dreaded winter overnight parking ban. 

Starting December 1 parking is prohibited from 3a.m. to 7 a.m. on over 100 hundred miles of city-designated streets until April 1st. It does not matter if there is snow or not. Your car will be towed. There are also 500 miles of streets that prohibit parking if there is two inches or more snow. If you park on these streets overnight, your car will be towed. Check for those signs, people, or trudge down to the pound and pay the piper twice, once for the ticket and then the tow.

Tis the season of Dibs. After a heavy snowfall, Dibs is holding a shoveled-out parking space by putting barricades in the street to claim the space. Dibs is a decades-old winter tradition in Chicago. Some people claim Dibs all winter long. Some do not wait for the heavy snow. They claim their parking space when there is little snow or even a threat of snow.

Some people get creative to the point of setting out a dining table set with plates and silverware. There are plastic Christmas religious statues, inflatables, children’s plastic playhouses, nativity scenes, standing frozen pants, and other unique items. The usual things are milk crates, sawhorses, or lawn chairs, some with boards stretched across.

Dibs is technically illegal. According to the municipal code, streets will not be obstructed with items including “crates, boxes, or hogsheads” (Barrels). Like many in Chicago, including our politicians, no one cares about laws. 

Dibs is controversial, and may lead people to damage each others’ cars, spark arguments, or even violence. Violent crimes committed over Dibs should not be a worry as our Cook County State’s Attorney, Kim Foxx, will not prosecute crimes of mutual combat.

Columnists and editorial boards have written pro, con, and humorous articles about the practice over the decades. Former mayors supported the tradition. Mayor Lori Lightfoot discourages Dibs, though she understands it- whatever that means. 

How popular is Dibs? There are social media pages about the tradition, like this one on Pinterest. There is a Facebook page too, Chicago Dibs

Dibs is a form of tolerated subversiveness in Chicago. People take to the streets with their shovels and snow blowers to clear a parking space, then put up the barricades. They worked hard for it, risking the widow making heart-a-stroke. They earned it. That space is theirs. “Whose streets? Our streets.” Why should some lazy, low-life motherless mook, mameluke, or jamoke be entitled to reap the benefits of their hard work?

There is a Judge Dibs in Chicago. He is wise beyond his years as the ancient Greek philosophers. He is also a great cook. He decides dibs cases based on the rules and the situation, the“Dibstitution.” Judge Dibs can now be found at

Judge Dibs is tough but fair. He named me the Lord High Chamberlain of Dibs. However, I would have preferred Lord High Executioner, but Illinois eliminated the death penalty. I was honored to have such a title bestowed on me. But I do not have the time to execute my duties. I have my own problems with people blocking my side driveway because Illinois issues driver’s licenses to blind people.

Some claim Dibs is uncivil. They believe people who toil should not reap the fruits of their labor. According to these apostates, we should be kind and understanding towards each other. A few go so far as to suggest people shovel out parking spaces for their neighbors or even the whole block. It is an act of kindness and a neighborly thing to do. 

There is one problem with this line of thinking if you call it that. Chicago, the “City of Neighborhoods,” does not have a Mr. Roger’s neighborhood. I don’t know if they noticed, but Mr. Roger’s is dead, as are their brain cells.

Winter is coming. Snow is coming. Dibs is the natural order of things. Let there be peace on earth and Dibs in Chicago. 

As Judge Dibs states: 

“Respect Dibs. 

Revere the Dibstitution.

And love thy neighbor, baby.

So let it be written. So let it be done.”


Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer.  He writes at He spent almost thirty years driving in square circles, serving and protecting. He is a photographer, writer, serious cook, and eater.  His astrological sign is Skull and Crossbones. In his spare time, Mr. Bella watches flies die.

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