Ready for Back-In Parking Downtown?
Drivers in downtown Southern Pines will soon park differently on portions of Broad Street.
The town is unveiling back-in angle parking, which has existed for decades but is only beginning to sweep the nation.
“It’s going to be really exciting to be one of the very first communities in North Carolina to have back-in angle parking,” says Robert Reeve, director of the town’s recreation and parks department.
- I like it 18%
- I don't like it 60%
- I will wait and see 14%
- My spouse can't park a car as it is! 8%
628 total votes.
The demonstration project of back-in angle parking will be conducted on the west side of Broad Street from New Hampshire Avenue to Massachusetts Avenue and on the east side from Pennsylvania Avenue to Connecticut Avenue.
Those five blocks were selected because they get enough turnover “to truly test public opinion and adaptability,” but they are not so busy “that back-ups cause a furor,” according to criteria listed in the Bicycle Transportation Plan adopted last October by the Southern Pines Town Council.
Not coincidentally, the $13,000 project will be piggybacked on existing N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) plans to repave Broad Street by November.
“We can save money working with DOT,” Reeve says. “Right after they’ve resurfaced everything, we’ll work with the subcontractor on all the stripings and other markings on the pavement. It fits right in with what we’re doing as we begin phase I of implementing the bike plan.”
Back-in angle parking is currently being used in North Carolina on several streets in Charlotte and is about to be implemented in parts of Cary. Its sporadic use around the country is concentrated on the West Coast.
“This isn’t a decision that was made just yesterday,” Reeve says. “Back-in angle parking has been discussed for more than a year and was included in the bike plan, which was also approved by DOT.”
Reeve has begun an outreach program to educate the public about the upcoming changes, and he chose the Southern Pines Business Association (SPBA) for his first stop. Downtown merchants have a large stake in the outcome because the five demonstration blocks are in the heart of the central business district.
“All of the downtown merchants want the project done before the holiday shopping season begins. None of them want it to interfere with the season, which accounts for a large portion of their annual revenue,” SPBA President Lee Riggsbee says. “If it’s going to happen, the sooner the better. The good news is we’re not losing any parking spaces.”
Riggsbee and Reeve expect an “adjustment” period once the changes are implemented.
“There’s going to be a learning curve for everyone to figure it out,” Riggsbee says. “It will just take some time.”
The new parking spaces will jut out at an angle from the curb but will face away from oncoming motorists instead of toward them. Similar to parallel parking, drivers will signal, pass their spot and back into it instead of entering front first.
“It will take some adjustment,” Riggsbee says. “It’s just a change, so I guess everybody will get used to it.”
In some cities across the country, drivers have had trouble adjusting. But the opposite happened in Tucson, Ariz., where the college town went from an average of three to four bicycle/car crashes per month before back-in angle parking to none in the first four years after implementation.
Although Reeve has no way to predict the impact here, he hopes that his presentations and the resulting word-of-mouth will ease the transition.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to educate folks about the upcoming changes in downtown Southern Pines,” he says. “We’re trying to communicate with as many people as we can. We started with the SPBA, and we’re hoping that we get 100 percent coverage.”
Proponents of back-in angle parking tout the following benefits:
n Improved visibility and improved field of vision. Drivers are able to see oncoming traffic when leaving their parking spot.
n Decreased number of collisions. Drivers no longer have to blindly back out of their parking spot.
n Improved safety for bicyclists. Drivers are able to see bicyclists in the roadway while exiting a parking space.
n Improved loading and unloading. Trunks back up to the sidewalk instead of the street.
n Improved handicapped parking. Spaces can be placed adjacent to curb ramps.
“It does seem like it’s the new wave of making a community safe for its residents, whether they’re shoppers, bicyclists, pedestrians or motorists,” Reeve says.
Potential drawbacks include vehicles overhanging the sidewalk, vehicles backing into street furniture, vehicle exhaust over sidewalks, vehicles entering the spaces head-in and potential congestion as drivers adjust.
The transition will be aided with signs and other markings to clarify the appropriate use of back-in angle parking spaces. Initially, “seed” cars could also be parked in a few spaces to illustrate the correct way to park.
“People will figure it out,” Riggsbee says.
Meanwhile, the town is recruiting residents to serve on its newly approved seven-member Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. Members will be appointed by the town council.
“I’m trying to get as many people as possible to apply,” Reeve says. “We’ve already had quite a few, but the more the merrier.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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