Wis. city mandates drivers back into parking spaces

The people of Altoona, Wis., near Eau Claire, have about had it with the challenge of parking in the city.

It’s not that they can’t find spaces, it’s that they’re required to back into them, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram reported Tuesday.

It’s been two years since the city mandated drivers back into the on-street angled parking spaces in the city’s River Prairie development. The city cited designs that show that cars pulling out of parking spots facing traffic are safer than those who back out.

“While your car’s butt is sticking out into traffic, you can’t see if there are cars coming, because your view is blocked by the passenger compartments of the cars or SUVs parked next to you,” no less an authority than Ray Magliozzi of “Car Talk” says.

But cars have cameras now and one barely has to turn and look anymore. And people don’t like it anyway. Backing in? That’s not normal. People like normal.

Too bad, the city planner says. Studies show back-in parking is safer and if drivers don’t like it, they can go find another space.

Back-in parking “was worth a try,” the city’s police chief said. “But now I’m worried about safety if we keep (back-in parking).”

Why? Because people are driving the wrong way to park their cars front-in.

People will always find a way to keep doing what they want to do.

The Altoona City Council may decide the future of the policy on Thursday.

Related: It’s much safer to back into parking spaces. Why don’t we do it? (Vox)

  • jon

    Can we get this mandated everywhere?!

    I back in or pull through when ever I have the option, and am not in a hurry… and I always know If I’m not in a hurry when I arrive, I can’t foresee if I’ll be in a hurry when I leave…

    Only exceptions are in the garage where pulling in lets me put the passenger side right up against the wall and allows both me and my wife to use the driver side doors on our cars, and when I’m on the motorcycle where parking tends to be more focused on the surface you put the kickstand on and orientation of the bike to any slope than direction (particularly when it is as maneuverable as a bike is, forget backing out when you can just do a slow tight U turn… )

    • Backing into a garage is a bad idea unless you are driving an electric, since it fills the space with exhaust. It’s really bad when you start up the cold engine to pull out and the mixture is rich. Arrgh!

      • jon

        I envy the person with a garage that is so air tight that it matters…

        (CO sensor in my garage is on wifi, pulling in or backing in didn’t seem to make a difference, it goes high in the morning when the car leaves, and then goes low the next time the door opens, it doesn’t go quite as high when the car returns with a hot engine…)

  • Jim in RF

    I like Batmobile parking. You never see the Batmobile backing up.

  • Angry Jonny

    Ever been to Park Rapids? You can park right in the middle of the street.

  • >>But cars have cameras now and one barely has to turn and look anymore.<<

    NEWer cars have those features…my 18 year old car still has a cassette deck.

    • jon

      All new cars are required to have backup cameras starting last month.


      • Cool. I guess I’ll have that camera in 18 or so years.


        • jon

          Probably won’t even take that long… according to wikipedia:
          “About half of model year 2012 automobiles were equipped with backup cameras.”

          50/50 chance on 12 years? And like I said below, if safety features avoid collisions, that should lead to them being over represented in the used market…. maybe an 80/20 chance on in 12 years?

          • I had my last car (MY 2000) for 11 years and would have still been driving it but it was totaled by a texting driver.

            I’ve had my current car (MY 2001) just over a year, and it has 130k fewer miles, a bigger engine and is in better condition than my previous one.

            12 years? Maybe.


          • jon

            So extrapolating, you’ll be getting a new used car every year until for the foreseeable future, each of them 18 years after their model year…


          • You are correct.


          • X.A. Smith

            The likelihood that your current vehicle will also get totaled by a texting driver is not insignificant, so, at least you have that going…for you?

          • *sigh*

            Yeah…I guess…

  • KariBemidji

    Back up cameras are not idiot proof – says the person who backed up into a car she owns in her driveway.

    • Guest

      “Nothing is foolproof because fools are so ingenious”

  • Gary F

    I think that backing in causes just as many problems. Only one of my three autos has a backup camera and none of them have cassette decks.

    Well Altoona, I’ll buy my Spotted Cow and fireworks in another town.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    So backing into a tight parking space with an SUV on one side and a giant pickup truck on the other is “safer” then go forward into the tight space and backing out into the open space of the lot lane or street? Okay if they say so.

    • jon

      Severity of a collision is largely determined by the difference in velocity between the objects colliding…

      Hopefully you aren’t backing into a parking space at the same speed cars are driving on the road. The velocity of parked cars is fixed at 0, unlike the “empty” space on the road that can be occupied by a car doing the speed limit in a very short period of time…

      Yes hitting a parked car is safer than being hit by a car doing the speed limit (or more) regardless of what type of cars you are parking next to…. And if you can’t back into a parking space without hitting parked cars, perhaps driving isn’t for you… as backing into a parking space was part of the drivers exam when I took it.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        But doesn’t the process of backing in create the same issues with respect to cars on the street? So aren’t you just trading risks? Maybe the parking should be in the center of the street so it’s pull through.

        On the drivers exam in NY you had to parallel park on the street, which does require backing into the space. They didn’t require backing into a diagonal space.

        • jon

          It’s not trading equal risk…

          If you are in the street and you come to a stop, traffic in the street behind you will see this… they are watching their path of travel. You stop, you back up, you are now hopefully looking back at where you are going (if you aren’t you are doing it wrong) and you park…

          Pulling out you edge out a few feet and you can see oncoming traffic and enter at a safe time…

          When pulling in sure that’s safe enough, probably about as safe as backing in, you slow down, cars behind you slow down, you instead of backing in pull in and cars behind you speed up and go on their way…

          Compare that to you are on the side of the road, not on the path of travel for the cars on the road, and you enter it mostly blind because of cars parked on either side of you… they aren’t looking at you on the road, and you can’t see them, oh and they are traveling fast…

          Four options, pulling in, pulling out, backing in and backing out, the safest for the cars would be to both pull in and pull out, that’d be parking in the middle of the street, but parking in the middle of the street has it’s own issues as you now have pedestrians leaving cars in the middle of the street crossing to get to the sidewalk, and cars zipping along right next to the sidewalk…

          next safest would be backing in and pulling out… which now has pedestrians all near the sidewalk, no one in the middle of the street outside of a protective cage with crumple zones and airbags and such, and a few tons of steel/plastic etc between traffic and pedestrians…

          Next would be pulling in and backing out… and then least safe, backing in and backing out… which I hope we can all agree every one driving backwards in town would be a bad plan….

        • jon

          also MN road test requires:

          “Ability to perform the 90-degree backing skill maneuver. This
          simulates backing into a ten-foot wide driveway or parking space.”

          according to the drivers handbook. no idea what WI requires…

  • Guest

    I like pull-thru parking at the grocery store and elsewhere. I fear little kids below my trunk when I back up.

  • Credit Warrior

    I installed a backup camera on my 15 year old pickup for $40. It has a several different features that allow me to see whats behind me, who’s in my blindspot and see whats coming down the street. Took about 30 minutes to install. Not full proof but helps alot

    • I bought a car (used, because what’s the point of buying new?) that also provides me with an audio warning when something is a “threat”. And it has a flashing light on the side mirrors when somebody is in my blind spot. It’s amazing how quickly I’ve come to rely on these, and how hard I have to work when driving my wife’s car, which does not have these features.

      • jon

        Given that collisions are one of the main reasons a car doesn’t make it into the used market, I assume that as time progresses cars with these safety feature will be over represented in the used market vs. those without those features.

  • KTFoley

    Back when they were broadcast weekly, I heard Tom & Ray discuss this topic on their show. While the safety aspect is not in dispute (and the rationale has been widely reprinted in their columns) that’s only half of the point they made on-air.

    The other half was that there are situations when a person should not back into a space for practical reasons, such as when the parking area is active/crowded or when other cars have to stop to let the driver maneuver.

    Picture the lineup of cars patrolling for parking spots on a Saturday afternoon at Target. Or the scenario of people arriving at the same time in the morning, then leaving throughout the day.

    Requiring everyone to back into parking spaces regardless of conditions may be trading absolutes in safety for simple street mobility.

  • KTFoley

    What I would like to see reinforced with all the strictness we can muster is when people pull through two spaces to park nose-out in DIAGONAL parking. I’m looking at you, Grand Ave Kowalski’s shoppers.

    To exit, the driver must either make a very-sharp right turn for which the one-way traffic lane is not designed, or else go the wrong way in the same one-way traffic.

    Stop it, people. Just stop.

  • John F.

    Drive a large commercial vehicle for a couple of years, you’ll get plenty of practice backing into tight spaces.

  • ec99

    I wonder when government will mandate the legal toilet paper hand.

    • joetron2030

      My brother (who is left-handed) got a lot of weird looks when he traveled through Africa in the late-90s/early-2000s. 😉

  • Ben Chorn

    If they are single spots I can understand it. The double spots in most parking lots would be more of a hassle given you now have your trunk against someone else’s.

  • joetron2030

    It annoys the heck out of me as I watch people back into parking slots because they take so dang long.

    Based on my observations, people can barely manage to park between the
    lines when they’re pulling in forward. Trying to do that while also
    backing in? Ugh…

    Also annoying: the people who pull through but don’t do it sufficiently enough and end up effectively taking up two parking slots instead of one.