The Non-Profit That Gives Drivers Sticker Shock

Here’s a tip if you’re a new driver: drive on the road, not on the sidewalks. Cars don’t belong on the sidewalks — that’s where pedestrians go, and if you drive there, you’re very likely to cause serious injury to someone walking by, perhaps fatally so. And that’s true no matter where you are. Cars shouldn’t go where people are walking or standing — it’s just plain dangerous. 

Unfortunately, in Russia, sometimes people don’t care. Law enforcement can be light and traffic violations are incredibly common; as previously recounted in these pages, Moscow’s roads (for example, but this applies to a lot of the country) “are poorly planned, traffic laws are regularly ignored, construction and accidents are constant, and frequent government motorcades strangle traffic, and as a result, an estimated “one million Russians — nearly one percent of the population — use dashboard cameras” to help them prove that someone else is at fault when an accident (or worse) inevitably befalls them. 

As a result, you get situations like the one:

That’s a screenshot from Google Street View (via Quora) and as you can clearly see, there are multiple cars parked on the sidewalk (and one parked only partially on the sidewalk, which may be worse). And that’s one of the tamer iterations of the problem. On roadways where traffic is backed up, it’s rather common for drivers to simply bypass the other cars by driving around it, taking to the sidewalk.

The solution: really big stickers, as seen below (via).

The sticker, which says something like “I don’t care, I park or drive wherever I want,” is being applied by a member of a Russian non-profit called StopXam or, commonly (and I apologize for the language here), “Stop a Douchebag” (SADB). As the Daily Beast reported, “Stop a Douchebag is a popular movement of young men [and women, as seen above] who confront violators of traffic rules on the street—often loudly, unapologetically, and self-righteously[]. Run a stoplight or drive on the curb to escape notorious Moscow traffic and you might find a flailing young man [or woman] on your windshield, trying to block your line of sight with a giant sticker.”  The stickers had a cheap adhesive layer, making them not so easy to pull off of your windshield, and therefore, preventing you from driving further until you take a good amount of time to remove them. 

That’s a bad outcome, but even if SADB catches a driver in the act, stickering isn’t inevitable. In many cases, SADB members give the sidewalk driver a chance to repent for his or her sins (by, e.g., reversing back into traffic) and warn that if the driver doesn’t, the stickers will come out. But sometimes, the drivers decided to pull away — with mixed results. We know that because SADB members often travel in packs, with at least one member recording the entire incident with their phone. And those videos invariably make their way to YouTube. Here’s one example showing a handful of drivers negotiating a sticker-free solution with the activists. But as also seen in that video (it’s the last driver, in case you want to fast-forward), SADB members will go to great lengths to get their stickers on your windshield.

But before you start cheering for the vigilante stickering brigade, note this: they’re not entirely vigilantes, and they’re not necessarily the good guys in the story. SADB is an offshoot of an organization in Russia called Nashi, a nominal anti-fascism group that was widely seen as a Vladimir Putin-endorsed group of hooligans developed to intimidate opponents of the state. (As The Times notes, “has been compared [. . . ] to the Hitler Youth and to its Soviet-era analog, the Komsomol,” due to their quasi-official status, lack of accountability, and their often brutal means at achieving whatever ends desired.) Nashi formally dissolved in 2019, but many critics of SADB cite its original affiliation with Nashi — and Putin’s explicit endorsement of SADB in 2013 — as reason to distrust their stickering and motives.

Bonus fact: Driving on the sidewalk isn’t nearly as common in the United States, but it does happen, and when it happens repeatedly, creative solutions may similarly be in order. That’s what happened in Cleveland in 2012. A driver named Shena Hardin kept getting stuck behind a school bus, so one day, she decided to simply drive around it by using the sidewalk as a road. And then she did it again, and again, and again. Ultimately, the bus driver and police set up a mini sting operation — the police hid down the block, waiting for her to appear one morning. She did and once again, drove onto the sidewalk; you can watch it here, because the bus driver recorded the whole thing. 

Instead of sentencing her to prison, though, the judge assigned to Hardin’s case came up with a different punishment. As NPR reported, she received a $250 fine, had her license suspended for 30 days, and for two mornings, she was order to “[stand] at the scene of the crime for an hour while holding a sign that said ‘only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.'”

From the Archives: How to Beat Traffic in Moscow: No driving on sidewalks, but it may be worse?