Parking Ticket 101: Street Cleaning

Tips For Avoiding & Contesting Street Cleaning Violations

Street cleaning season in Chicago officially kicks off this Friday, April 1st.

While parking tickets are frustrating, perhaps the most annoying parking violation is for street cleaning.

In  most cases, the signs were posted and the driver knew the big blue street cleaners would be there in the morning–but simply forgot.

60 bucks is an expensive mistake.

But here are some tips so you move your car in time and keep those damn bright orange street cleaning tickets off your windshield.

Street Cleaning Schedules

The City of Chicago just posted the 2011 street cleaning schedule on the Streets & Sanitation website.

Find your ward and your zone within the ward, and it should list every date for the entire street cleaning season, which runs through October 31st.

Write all the street cleaning dates on the household calendar and plug them into your phone’s calendar application . Then set the alarms to remind you ahead of time to move your car.

Your local ward’s website should have the street cleaning schedule for your ward listed.

Some wards will actually provide printed schedules to constituents.

Watch For Street Signs

Those bright orange cardboard signs will usually make it onto trees, light poles and sign posts along your street at least 24 hours before street cleaning begins.

Make sure you watch your street for these signs, even if you’re not using your car every day. You don’t want to be caught off guard because you haven’t driven your car for a few days.

Permanent Signs

While the idea behind installing permanent metal signs on streets announcing street cleaning dates was to reduce violations, the truth seems to be the opposite.

It seems drivers start taking the permanent signs for granted or forget to check them. Despite the old school nature of those temporary cardboard signs, they seem to be more successful at reminding drivers to move their cars.

If you live or park on a street with permanent street cleaning signs, it is very important to mark your calendar, day planner or input the dates into your phone’s calendar function  to remind you when the street sweepers will be there.

Street Cleaning In Business Districts

While street cleaning on residential streets start at 9 AM, there are some commercial districts of the city where weekly street cleaning occurs from 7 Am to 9 AM from April 1 to October 31.

Fighting Street Cleaning Tickets

There are few defenses available to the motorist who receives a ticket for street cleaning. But, in some cases, a driver can prevail in contesting this violation.

If signs were not posted on your block or for some reason they have  been removed or have blown down due to the weather, you may be able to contest and win.

Photograph the lack of signs along your block. Throw in a few photos of street signs or addresses on buildings to establish you are photographing where you were ticketed. Take photos of other cars ticketed on the block showing you were not the only driver who was ticketed because signs were not posted correctly.

Ask the Administrative Law Officer presiding over your hearing to check the ticket sequence. He or she can see if there were too many tickets issued on the block. According to one hearing officer, if there are more than five or six cars ticketed for street cleaning on the same block, it seems to indicate that signs were not posted correctly.

You can make the same general argument if you feel signs were not posted 24 hours ahead of time. While this 24 rule is not contained in the municipal code, hearing officers recognize that motorists need fair warning to be able to comply.

Street Cleaning Fun Facts

  • Street cleaning season runs from April 1st to October 31st.
  • Orange paper signs announcing street cleaning are supposed to be posted at least 24 hours before street sweeping commences.
  • Street cleaning starts at 9 AM and ends at 3 PM.
  • You can re-park on the street before 3 PM only if signs are removed after street cleaning has been completed.
  • Tickets for street cleaning will cost you $60.

Coming Soon…VERY Soon

The Expired Meter is currently testing a new FREE service to help warn Chicago drivers to move their cars when street cleaning is scheduled for their street.

For more information on this new service and to be the first on your block to sign up, send us an e-mail at:

33 Responses to Parking Ticket 101: Street Cleaning

  1. jen says:

    while the calendar view is nice this year, be very careful you’re looking at the actual DATE and not the section number listed for each day. great tips all around though, as always.

  2. DoR Employee says:

    The City announced that a 30 minute grace period would be in effect for April 1st Street Cleaning restrictions…

    And that NO Enforcement should occur before that 30 minutes is Over.

    Thats for 7am to 9am and 9am to 3pm restriction signs.

    IF ANYONE gets a street cleaning ticket BEFORE:

    7:30am (7am-9am signs)
    9:39am (9am-3pm signs)

    File a Complaint with the City via 3-1-1 or go to the Police District that issued them.

    Cause you will not be ticketed by Revenue before 30minutes has elapsed.

  3. mark says:

    Chicago is fortunate. In Boston, you will be towed in addition to receiving a ticket. Average total cost for both towing and ticket equals around $170

  4. Fast Car says:

    DoR Employee,

    Where can we find this info from the city about the 30 minute grace period?

  5. DoR Employee says:

    Fast Car…

    You can’t.

    Its an Internal, Informal Decision that was made March 31st by the Heads of Revenue Street Ops and their bosses.

    We ALWAYS give a courtesy the first day of street cleaning, Every year.

    Last year it was 15 minutes.
    Year before it was 15 also as I recall.

    This year they decided on 30 minutes for 7am-9am and 9am-3pm postings.

    We can not convince the CPD or TMA’s to hold back for the time they MAKE us wait.

    If I had a Memo to that effect…It would be cropped and cut and washed and sanitized and in the Geeks INBOX so he could post it.

    I finished reviewing the numbers from a couple sites for today..for street cleaning tickets issued…and Whoa baby..

    It is HUGE.

    FOIA it if you want real numbers…but a generalized approx is around

  6. Parker says:

    So, the signs change on April 1? My street sign has said Nov 30 – April 1 and I just noticed that it’s not April 1 – Nov 30. Is this something new? I’ve never noticed it…until I got a ticket.

  7. Rinzler says:

    Just spotted. New Street Cleaning signs being posted.
    NEW HOURS!!! 9AM – 2PM Some old signs may be used, but street cleaning ends at 2pm

  8. SS says:

    Also, cardboard signs are now different colors for different days. I think Fridays are orange. Or they may use the old orange signs without a day of week specification.

  9. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    Actually, I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason to sign color anymore.

    A few years ago, it switched from orange to a different color for the day of the week.

    I believe, for whatever reason, they went back to orange only.

    But, different ward S&S offices were sitting on inventory of different colors.

    So, I see all sorts of different color schemes depending on what ward I happen to be driving in.

    The main thing is to read and obey the signs.

  10. Fast Car says:

    I’ve noticed that all the signs I’ve seen still say “PHOTO ENFORCED” on them.

  11. AK says:

    Has anyone figured out what to do when you’re out of town? If I’m out of town for that week, and my parking permit is for the ward that I live in, where can I possibly move it to ahead of time to avoid a ticket…?

  12. DoR Employee says:

    That’s correct Fast Car,

    PEA’s take pictures.

    I’m of the opinion that since the Color Coded signs say that, if the ticket doesn’t come with an attached photo that is viewable by you and the ALO, the ticket should be tossed, unless there is an Attached note by the PEA that gives the reason for no photo…

    Like “Photo Storage Full”.

    CPD and TMA’s should not be writing Street Cleaning. They should be fighting Crime (CPD) or screwing up traffic (TMA’s).

    Now, in the case of the Perm Posted signs that some wards use, like the ones that say “Tuesday 7am-9am or ’3rd Wednesday of Month : 9am-3pm”…they don’t say “photo enforced” so its not required, even though PEA’s still take pictures. But then, the Perm Posted signs open up a whole new option for enforcement also….Its Called a Tow Truck. Some wards have scofflaw’s Towed and Impounded on street cleaning days.

  13. Can't c me says:

    If my violation states that it is supported by photographs and the photo of my license plate is not legible, should I contest the ticket? And do you think I would win?


  14. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Can’t c me,

    You can try using this strategy, but I’m not very confident it will work.

    The photographs are not required by law for the ticket to be viable. The city provides the photos to convince you there’s no other choice but to pay. If you try fighting it and saying your car wasn’t there and the lack of a photo proves it is not very strong to me as the ticket has all your license plate/vehicle info listed at the time and date in question.

    I would give your chances of prevailing as pretty low. But, I would fight it because I fight everything.

  15. KevinG says:


    I don’t think the photo enforced is a reference to the pictures you take as evidence to support the ticket but rather the legal language used in IL to notify drivers that tickets can be written automatically by camera (as in red light cameras and in this case street sweepers)

  16. DoR Employee says:

    That is correct Kevin.

    There is a Special Program to outfit Streets and San Sweepers with Automated Ticket Cameras.

    But its still under discussion to my information.

    Plus…with the new program of having Police Officers Drive Crossing Guards around so they can write Street Cleaning….I’m of the Opinion that if you get a Handwritten Ticket Ever for Street Cleaning…Contest it .

  17. Cosmo Kramer says:

    @DOR that program ended last year. It was published in the newspaper as a failed experiment

  18. KevinG says:


    Do you happen to have a link. I haven’t heard anything about that.

  19. Cosmo Kramer says:

    I can’t find the cbs article or suntimes but this popped up

  20. Steve says:

    With street cleaning starting in just four days, is there a 2012 citywide schedule available to the public yet?

    As of five minutes ago, the city Streets & Sanitation street sweeping page returns an error. I live on the border of two wards (35th and 26th), and the websites for both wards are also missing this info. Are they just planning on surprising us next week?

    (Random fact: the 32nd ward’s site, which is the first Google result for “Chicago street cleaning 2012″, has apparently had a complete map AND schedule available for a few weeks now. So why doesn’t everyone else?)

  21. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    S&S says the maps will be up tomorrow (Thursday).

    Talk to you alderman’s office. They should have your schedule.

  22. Andrew says:

    The schedule on the webiste and city of Chicago was wrong with the street cleaning dates (said date was august 6th, but I got a ticket on august 2nd) is this enough to fight the ticket?

  23. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    What ward was this?

    But YES! I would use the city’s posted schedule as evidence you should not have received a ticket. Print it out before the city changes it retroactively.

    Try talking to your aldermanic office and see if they can write you a letter on your behalf to bring to your hearing.

    Make the case that the city posts these dates online to allegedly help drivers AVOID tickets. If the schedule is NOT correct or a mistake is made, you should not have to suffer.

    If the schedule had been for Aug. 2nd, you would have moved your vehicle.

    Ask the Administrative Law Judge to check to see how many others got ticketed. If there are a decent amount, this proves there was some sort of problem with signage/scheduling and helps your the chance your ticket will get dismissed.

  24. Capt M-Plate says:

    I want to know what ward that happened in.

    Some wards screw up their own schedule A lot.

  25. ALBERT says:


  26. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    If you parked before the time for street cleaning ended (in most cases 3 PM), and the signs were posted, you can be ticketed–even though the street sweeper already came through to clean the street.

    The ticket will probably hold up.

  27. ceceilia says:

    got two tickets for street cleaning and parking opposite direction while momentarily finalizing logistics Am I afforded special traffic protections in a park zone street adjacent to the park for a major event that was in the local papers. Can I win on using this affirmative defense and show pixs of other vehicle on the same street that my vehicle was parked as well?

  28. The Parking Ticket Geek says:


    You could try the defense you outlined. It may work, but it’s hard to say based on the limited information you’ve given me.

  29. 019 Distrcit PO says:

    She would need to provide evidence that a special permit was issued to Her to be able to ignore parking rules for that day.

    Generally speaking, you can’t park the wrong direction on a 1 or 2 way street unless there is no exit (cul de sac). Street Cleaning is a special event that cancels all other parking abilities (residential moves, Meters, Loading Zones, Standing Zones, Loading and Unloading ‘momentarily’, etc..’

  30. Drew says:

    March 22nd and No Street Cleaning schedules posted by Streets and Sanitation as of yet.

  31. soccer mom says:

    What happens if you get a ticket in a street cleaning zone with a permanent sign but the sign is completely blocked by a tree and there’s only one posted. I got one yesterday.

  32. The Parking Ticket Geek says:

    Soccer Mom,

    Fight the ticket. Take a photo of the sign obscured by the tree (this happens often during the summer) and use the photo as evidence.

    An obscured sign is one of the main defenses the city recognizes in fighting a ticket.

    Fight the ticket in person if you can and you should win.

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