Thumbs Down on Parking Idea
Back-in diagonal parking can be a good idea under the right circumstances. But in Southern Pines, it’s clearly an idea whose time has not come.
Merchants have spoken out against it almost unanimously. And, judging from conversations in downtown stores and on sidewalks, so many potential customers are so violently against the whole concept that it seems likely that significant percentages of them would simply stay away from the downtown if confronted with this unwelcome innovation on a wide scale.
That’s the last thing we need. For those reasons and others, the town is justified in putting the whole idea — even the idea of a test — way back on the shelf for now. The local economy, like the national one, is shaky enough as it is without choosing this moment to create unnecessary further complications for business people.
In a survey of the Broad Street merchant community conducted Friday by merchant Tony Grausso and others, 58 of the 60 polled expressed themselves as strongly opposed to the concept of back-in parking. Perhaps more significantly, 57 said they were against even the trial that had been suggested on one block. Such an overwhelming consensus is impossible to ignore.
Part of Bike Plan
Back-in parking has been promoted as part of a broad-based bicycle plan that the Town Council approved in 2010, with the aim of making the town more bike-friendly. Anything that can be done to advance that worthy goal is a good thing — anything, that is, short of plunging the town into needless conflict and consternation.
The most visible difference between back-in diagonal parking and the traditional front-in kind is that the angle is reversed, requiring the motorist to drive beyond the space and then back into it, in rather the same way one now backs into a parallel-parking space.
One big advantage of the proposed change — and the reason the bike plan calls for it — is that it’s safer for passing cyclists. The reason: The driver leaving a space can look out his side window and see if anyone is coming, as opposed to backing out blind and perhaps causing a collision with a cyclist. The big disadvantage is that it is harder for a driver — especially an older driver, of which this community has more than its share — to pull forward, put it in reverse, and back into the space in the first place.
A Solution Looking for a Problem
Even if local drivers eventually became familiar enough with the new system to use it safely, it might still cause a degree of chaos where out-of-town visitors are concerned. Here again, our community is blessed with a greater-than-average number of those. And some of them already have trouble understanding and adapting to the unusual “Yield to Left” signs at every intersection on both sides of the railroad track. No need to add to that existing confusion.
For all those reasons, and also because we know of no rash of bicycle injuries under the present system, back-in parking for Southern Pines has come to look more and more like a solution in search of a nonexistent problem.
Let’s look instead at the simpler “shared-lane” concept and move on down the road.
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