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To pull in or to back in? That is the question

"I prefer pulling in first and backing later. But those who prefer backing in on arrival and pulling out later often feel strongly their method is safer. After all, they are backing into a space free of moving traffic and then pulling out later when they have better vision and visibility to other traffic. But from what I've observed, backing into a space and keeping it equally distant between the lines is a real challenge -- particularly for those driving those big pick-ups. Some do it well. Some don't." - DAVID GREER
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By David Greer
Kentucky Press News Service Original Story URL

Don't ask me why -- I suppose I have nothing better to do -- but I like watching drivers park their vehicles in restaurant parking lots while I wait for my food. Upon finding an empty space, each driver in need of parking their vehicle must decide quickly to pull in or back into the space. From what I have seen, most people pull in. But some drivers prefer backing in -- an action requiring more skill, in my book.

But each decision carries its own pros and cons. Pulling in is faster, easier. It makes it easier to park squarely between the lines. A nice quality appreciated by the perfectionists among us. But later, the driver will have to back out of the space. If this is done in a relatively low-occupancy lot, no biggie. But if it's a busy lot -- or even worse -- requires backing out into traffic, watch out. Pray your insurance is adequate.



On the other band, backing into the space usually requires that said motorist actually drive past the open spot, stop and slowly back in. This requires substantial head and neck turning -- if done properly -- or the nearly insane 100 percent reliance on side and rearview mirrors -- and therefore great skill or luck. Whichever they possess in greater abundance. And I haven't even mentioned the drivers in traffic who've been stopped -- and annoyed -- while someone backs in. But when leaving later, it's an easy matter pulling out of the space. Easy compared to backing in.

So which do you do? I prefer pulling in first and backing later. But those who prefer backing in on arrival and pulling out later often feel strongly their method is safer. After all, they are backing into a space free of moving traffic and then pulling out later when they have better vision and visibility to other traffic. But from what I've observed, backing into a space and keeping it equally distant between the lines is a real challenge -- particularly for those driving those big pick-ups. Some do it well. Some don't.

You can see why I found myself interested in a recent "how-to-park-it" debate in Bowling Green. There's interest in sprucing up the downtown and the question came up about parking in the vicinity of Fountain Square Park. Right now, most drivers pull into open spaces which means they later must back out into oncoming traffic. It's a safety and convenience issue.

As a result, some expressed their view it made sense to require drivers to back into parking spaces at the park so they could later pull out into traffic -- a safer scenario. Here's what the Bowling Green Daily News and reporter Wes Swietek had to say:

"The prospect of back-in parking around Fountain Square Park brought out droves of Bowling Green residents Monday as city officials hosted an information and input session on planned downtown renovations.

"While drawings and maps outlined many changes to come as part of the city's $2 million renovation, it was the back-in parking proposal that drew the most feedback at the three-hour meeting ... that drew about 70 attendees.

"Residents were invited to get information about the proposed back-in parking and then vote for or against the change by placing colored stickers on a map depicting the option they supported. By the end of the meeting, the tally was 44 against the change, 10 for it.

"Among the majority to vote against back-in parking was Emmett Secrest, who called it 'a stupid idea.' He said many drivers would have trouble negotiating back-in parking and would avoid coming downtown.

"It would hurt business," he said.

His wife, Jean Secrest, agreed.

"If I'm in a parking lot, I look for a pull-through space," she said.

Pat Martin said back-in parking would be difficult for many older drivers. "It's beautiful the way it is now," she said, adding that she also thought back-in parking would mean a reduction in visitors to downtown.

While reading up on the "to pull-in or back-in" debate, Google led me to a 2011 piece in The Washington Post called Dr. Gridlock, a then-daily column detailing ongoing traffic issues in the greater D.C. area.

Columnist Robert Thomson said the traffic issue generating the most reader interest revolved around the proper technique for merging into traffic. But a close second, he wrote, was "should drivers back into parking spaces?"

In a heated online forum, readers on both sides of the debate pointed out the pros and cons of pulling in vs. backing in, Thomson wrote. Neither side won the argument. And so it goes.


This story was posted on 2018-04-25 15:48:36
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