Friday, October 20, 2006

Back-in angle parking?We can do it

Jason Miller is the executive director of Wood River Rideshare, a valley-based organization that promotes transportation choices that reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, improve safety and health, and conserve energy and resources.

Recently, the city of Ketchum embarked on a test of back-in angle parking as a part of the Downtown Master Plan. If you've parked in one of the two test zones, you may be wondering a couple of things. First, what is this back-in angle parking? Second, why in the world is Ketchum considering such a change?

To answer the first question, back-in angle parking is like regular diagonal parking except that you enter the space by backing into it instead of pulling forward into the space. Back-in angle parking, also know as reverse-angle parking, operates under the basic premise that it's always better to "reverse into the known" (i.e., you are able to see the space before backing into it). The steps to perform back-in angle parking are the same as parallel parking without the last step of straightening parallel to the curb.

The answer to the "Why do it?" question is a pretty simple one—It's safer. A recent study in Pottsdown, Penn., found a 25 percent reduction in the number of accidents as a result of back-in angle parking. The study also found a 43 percent reduction in accidents involving injuries related to parking. When pulling out of a back-in diagonal space, a driver has a clear view to oncoming traffic by simply looking left before pulling out. Cyclists are also much more visible, thus reducing the potential of car-bike accidents.

There are also safety advantages when it comes to loading and unloading. When loading or unloading a small child, back-in angle parking allows your doors to open to the safety zone of the sidewalk, as opposed to opening toward the danger zone of the street. With the door as a barrier, kids are much more likely to take the path of least resistance to the sidewalk. Additionally, it is safer, not to mention more convenient, to load things into and out of the back of your car.

Just the other day, I hung out at the post office watching with great interest as motorists navigated this new parking configuration. Some avoided the test spots; some pulled head in from the opposite lane of traffic; some cheated by going through the dirt lot; some had no problems; and some simply struggled. As I have only tried this type of parking twice before in other towns, I decided to try the test spots. Here are a few tips:

· Turn on your right-turn signal as you approach the spot. Don't make any turns away from or into the spot before reversing. Just continue along your normal path of travel, about 2 to 3 feet outside the parking spots.

· Think of it like parallel parking. Pull past the spot until the rear tires of your vehicle are even with the end of the spot and then just turn your steering wheel to the right while backing up. It's just like parallel parking without the final step.

· Use your mirrors to see the parking stripes to center yourself in the spot.

· Use the front of your vehicle as a reference for how far to pull back. If you have a larger vehicle without a lot of overhang, be careful not to pull too far back and block the sidewalk.

· Finally, practice. It only takes a few times to get the hang of it.

Other towns in the West that have implemented back-in angle parking include Portland, Salt Lake City, Missoula, Seattle and Tucson. What they have found time and time again is that parking-related accidents decrease after back-in angle parking was implemented.

Although new and unknown to most of us, the benefits of back-in angle parking far outweigh the drawbacks.

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