By JOY BROWN
The reverse-angle parking proposed for Findlay’s Main Street is not a new idea, nor is it criticism-free in places that have it.
And it’s not even new for Findlay.
The city has had some reverse-angle, back-in parking for police officers for years. On one-way Cory Street, near the corner of Crawford Street, police cruisers are backed into designated “stalls.”
Civilians on downtown Main Street had angled front-in parking from horse-and-buggy days until 1962, said Mark Donaldson of the Hancock Historical Museum.
But the accident rate caused by people trying to back into traffic was so high that city officials altered parking and traffic as part of a downtown redevelopment plan, he said.
Before then, Main Street was one lane in each direction and, until 1937, included two trolley tracks down the center from Sixth Street to Trenton Avenue, he said.
The term “redevelopment” has been replaced by “revitalization” for the new plan that is intended to make downtown, particularly Main Street, less a highway and more appealing to pedestrians and businesses.
Planners throughout the nation are also using catchphrases such as “complete street” and “traffic calming” to market changes that they say are focused on safety.
Economics is also a consideration. To avoid having downtown ghost towns, traffic and design changes are being made to benefit businesses.
At least 20 percent more parking can be created using reverse-angle, back-in parking instead of parallel parking, engineers say.
Findlay officials have said the new design would create as many as 80 additional spaces downtown.
Planners also tout other benefits.
A widely-cited 2003 study by engineering consultants Walter Kulash and Ian Lockwood claimed back-in, reverse-angle parking “is superior for safety reasons due to better visibility when leaving.”
“This is particularly important on busy streets or where drivers find their views blocked by large vehicles, tinted windows, etc., in adjacent vehicles, in the case of head-in/back-out angled parking,” they wrote.
A Yaris driver parked next to a Ford F-250 truck, for example, no doubt understands that point of view.
Some communities have introduced back-in parking at a test site to acquaint drivers with the concept and see how they respond.
Other cities explain the maneuver is as “easy as 1-2-3″: You signal, you stop just beyond an empty space, and you back in.
Reverse-angle parking can be found in a handful of Ohio cities, such as Columbus.
At Gambier in Knox County, home of Kenyon College, the Village Council in January authorized such parking to be installed on one side of one of its most traveled streets.
Downtown Canton already has it.
“The diagonal parking was implemented in this way for safety reasons,” Canton’s website states. “Although it may be more difficult to back into a spot than to pull in, it is far safer to pull out into the travel lane when leaving than to back into the lane.”
Some towns incorporate bicycle lanes, too, just in front of the parking spots.
But strong resistance in some communities has sometimes forced officials to scrap the idea.
In November, the City Council in Venice, just south of Sarasota, Fla., said no to a test area in front of its City Hall after hearing negative reactions from constituents, The Herald-Tribune reported.
“I haven’t heard one person say, ‘I love the idea’ except our consultants,” city Engineer Kathleen Weeden told the newspaper.
One online commenter wrote: “Well that saved a bunch of lives.”
“I am not sure I could do it and I can parallel park,” another commented when Venice was still considering the idea.
Austin, Texas, incorporated back-in parking on four streets about four years ago to mixed reviews from drivers and business owners.
“Hey, City of Austin decision-making people … is the reverse parking on South Congress really an improvement?” tweeted Josh Williams in 2011.
Deborah LaBonte, a gallery owner on Austin’s busy Sixth Street where reverse-angle parking was installed, told KXAN-TV in 2010 that her customers don’t like it.
“People have come in here and just ranted and raved about how difficult it is to park. I’ve seen a lot of people just drive off,” LaBonte said. “They don’t want to deal with it.”
Concerns have also been expressed about exhaust being spewed closer to pedestrians, drivers accidentally backing onto sidewalks, and motorists being ignorant of, or ignoring, the back-in requirement.
City planners have countered with promotions, ubiquitous signs, and instructional videos.
So much confusion initially abounded in Austin over the altered parking that the city hired flaggers to help guide drivers into spots, and distributed fliers with parking instructions.
Online instructional pamphlets and videos abound.
2005 reverse-angle parking study:
Sarasota Herald-Tribune story:
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