Tucson going forward with back-in style parking spaces

2010-06-06T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:56:32Z Tucson going forward with back-in style parking spacesAndrea Kelly Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 06, 2010 12:00 am  • 

It took Teresa Biache two tries to maneuver the tail of her box-type wagon squarely into the back-in parking spaces on East Seventh Street near North Fourth Avenue.

Just when she thought she'd made it, screeeeeeech, the high back of her car was wedged against a low-growing tree - something that never would have happened had she been looking forward over the much lower nose of the car instead of trying to see behind her. Not to mention, the nose would have tucked in safely under the angled trunk.

Get used to it, Tucson. Angled, back-in parking has migrated from an introductory run at the UA Main Gate to the side streets flanking the Fourth Avenue shopping district.

And like 'em or hate 'em, if the city parking czars have their way, they will be spreading.

Whenever possible, any new or reconfigured parking will be angled, back-in style, said Chris Leighton, the city's ParkWise program coordinator.

Angled parking provides more spaces than parallel parking, he said, and forcing drivers to back in, rather than nose in, makes the street safer for passing bicyclists.

As long as a street is wide enough to accommodate the angles, the configuration has benefits, he said.

When Tucson first added back-in spots to East University Boulevard near North Park Avenue more than a decade ago, we were among the first in the nation to use that scheme, Leighton said.

Finally, the new configuration made the jump to the North Fourth Avenue environs.

Now that drivers/shoppers have had a little time to get used to them, opinions seem mixed.

"I'm concerned about oncoming traffic on either side of me" when backing in, Biache said, as she inspected for any damage to her car. "The act of backing in is awkward. It's hard to tell if you're in the lines.

"Getting out is easier."

As a driver, Biache said she usually avoids the tricky spots when visiting Fourth Avenue, preferring to parallel park closer to her destination instead of using the angled parking on the side streets.

But when she was a more-frequent bicycle commuter, she recalled, parallel parking spots were always a concern. People would swing open their door directly into the path of an oncoming cyclist, which doesn't happen with the angled spots.

Along North Third Avenue, angled back-in parking has created more streetside spaces near Time Market than the previous parallel configuration allowed.

There have been no accidents and no customer complaints since the change, said Kade Mislinski, the market's general manager. Plus, photos of the site from 1926 show angled parking, so the configuration adds to the historic feel of the area, he said.

"I'm happy about it because my guests are happy about it. It's safe for walkers and bikers," Mislinski said.

Steve Williams was parked in the angled parking near Time Market for a late lunch one day last week. He's extra cautious about bicycles because he rides a motorcycle and is aware smaller vehicles aren't as easy to see, he said.

"I like it a little better than parallel. You get more vehicles in," Williams said. "It probably gives bicyclists and pedestrians a little more comfort."

Leighton acknowledges it's not everyone's preference.

"Anywhere we put in back-in, angled parking we get some objections. A lot of people aren't comfortable, but they either have to back in or out so there is a back-up required one way or another," Leighton said.

That's not to mention the traffic delay and bicycle obstacle course that results when one person blocks the road to execute the back-in maneuver, said rider Aurelia Cohen.

Ah, but that's intentional.

"It's a positive side because it slows traffic way down, which is another way to reduce accidents," Leighton said.

Though the parking challenges on Fourth Avenue haven't affected business at Red Sky Tattoo Studios, owner Philip J. Felix thinks they're unsafe.

"It's a very dangerous move in such a high-pedestrian area. It's hard for people to execute; that's irresponsible," he said, pointing to some of the damaged sign poles on the curbs behind the spaces, evidence they've been hit by drivers backing into the spots.

He has watched people attempt the maneuver a few times and then just leave to find another parking spot.

"Any feedback we get is negative," Felix said.

Considering what he sees out there, bicyclist Wesley Weisheit has little faith that Tucson's drivers will be able to master the new parking style.

"They're having such a hard time parking already," he said of Fourth and University-area drivers. "And they're terrible backer-uppers."

COMING MONDAY

One of the reasons Tucson is expanding back-in parking is it's more bicycle-friendly. Find out more about where the community stands on the bike-friendly scale Monday in Roadrunner.

Contact reporter Andrea Kelly at akelly@azstarnet.com or 807-7790.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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