August 8


Pros & Cons of Back-In Angle Parking

By Mike Spack

August 8, 2017

angle parking, back-in angle parking, parallel parking, parking, parking safety, Roundabout, traffic

By Bryant Ficek, PE, PTOE

Back-in angle parking is a relatively new concept starting to be seen in more areas. The basic concept is similar to standard 45-degree parking. But instead of pulling forward into the space, drivers back into the angled stall. This is also referred to as reverse-angle or reverse diagonal parking.

For the driver, the basic steps are like parallel parking:

  1. Signal to indicate the upcoming movement
  2. Pull past the parking stall and stop
  3. Reverse into the parking stall at a 45-degree angle

There are many benefits to back-in angle parking, which is why this type is becoming more popular, including:

  • Drivers have a better view of traffic, both vehicles as well as bicycles, when exiting the parking space into the travel lane
  • Eliminates the difficulty drivers have of backing into moving traffic
  • Puts the trunk or back of vehicle to the sidewalk for safer loading/unloading
  • Positions drivers and passengers, particularly kids, to enter or exit the vehicle toward the sidewalk with the doors shielding people from moving traffic
  • Arguably easier to back into an angled space than a parallel space

These advantages have proven safer in terms of reducing crashes, particularly those between exiting vehicles and adjacent bicyclists. For traditional pull-in parking, the exiting maneuver into traffic can be blind depending upon the cars parked around you.

Back-in angle parking is not without its disadvantages. Key considerations are:

  • Steep learning curve similar to the experience of introducing roundabouts
  • Drivers not knowing exactly when to stop when backing, resulting in the vehicle overhanging the sidewalk or hitting landscaping or other amenities
  • Potential congestion with the initial stopping and backing maneuver, like parallel parking
  • Danger of drivers from the opposing traffic lane pulling across the road and nose-first into the parking stall

The learning curve is one that can be overcome with education and installation on a side street before attempting on a major thoroughfare. Signage can also help to reduce confusion.

We are only aware of a couple areas in Minnesota where this idea has been implemented, although it does seem to be talked about more lately (maybe that just us bringing it up). It will be interesting to see if this idea gains momentum like roundabouts or becomes an obscure (to the public at least) traffic engineering tool of last resort.

A final note, reader James Gattis, professor at University of Arkansas, provided us this great image of back-in angle parking in Washington, DC.  Thanks for sharing James!


Bryant Ficke Bio

  • We have a segment of back-in angle parking on Main Ave in Spokane that was installed in 2016. I must admit I have mixed feelings about these parking stalls. They came with a heavy dose of politics. We have photos of people parking head-in, parking enforcement struggled with license plate reading, etc. There are a few logistics that should be taken into consideration beyond just the traffic engineering of it.

  • If you’re interested, here’s a map of Back-in angle parking across the US (if it’s missing a location you’re familiar with, let me know):

  • One other difference between back in and pull in angle parking is the effect it has on following through traffic. With pull in, there is little to no delay for following through traffic. Then when leaving the parking space, the burden is on the pull-in parked vehicle to find a gap. With back in, the following through traffic is delayed during the parking maneuver, but pulling out is easier. This is not a big issue unless one is trying to use angle parking on a street carrying some through traffic. However, angle parking should really be used only on to streets that are a “destination” such as Canal Park in Duluth. The angle is also critical. For pull in, I have found that 35 degrees gives a reasonable number of spaces per block, it provides a good rear view angle, in minimizes the width needed for the area for through traffic and to complete the back out maneuver and it also positions most vehicle doors behind or ahead of the fronts or backs of the adjacent vehicles. The worst angle for parking is 90 degrees, unless one is in a parking lot.

  • We used this technique in 3 locations in Binghamton NY, 2 of which are downtown. Public acceptance was pretty prompt, not a great deal of education required. Now it’s viewed as matter of course.

  • For decades reverse parking has been the preferred on-street angle parking arrangement in some parts of Australia (see the state of New South Wales (NSW), where it is referred to as “rear to kerb”). It is the norm in most rural cities that have wide roads (because they were laid out in the 1800’s to accommodate large wagons pulled by six or eight bullocks). It is most often 60 degrees, but can be 90 or 45 degrees. You can find photos back to at least 1925 showing cars parked rear to kerb in the main streets (e.g., Tamworth, Orange). Check this link to the state’s driving test requirements.

    Here are links to Google Maps street views of parking in Tamworth, Orange and Bermagui, all in NSW. Further down is a link to Ballarat, Victoria. They use front to kerb parking, and you can see what looks like a bike lane, with two vehicles manoeuvring across it. Not good for reversing into a bike!,150.9304092,3a,75y,121.22h,83.29t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s4Jg3PB6keRyXI50Ea1lKhw!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

    Orange, NSW,149.0991252,3a,75y,187.8h,79.64t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sezH_y-BSZxEv_sNybVqcug!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

    Bermagui, NSW,150.0776045,3a,75y,47.43h,88.14t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sKa7E_-qAwcZl_72aaNXMNA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

    Ballarat, VIC,143.8465761,3a,75y,259.52h,78.71t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s6nQqqVvnpfP9DR8EQ1Py6Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

  • Another disadvantage of such parking layout, which was not mentioned, is that the tailpipe is facing the sidewalk. If there are residential properties along the sidewalk, residents will protest as they will not like tailpipes facing their homes.
    As for the second disadvantage you mentioned, this can always be tackled with car stoppers.
    Nonetheless, I do find that this layout is safer compared to the opposite layout.

  • Just wondering if 45 degree reverse angle parking would be safer than 60 degree reverse angle parking? We are considering a test site in our City and am wondering if anyone has any design standards to follow or if they are different than regular angled parking? Thanks.

  • Does anyone have an academic study that “proves” the safety benefit of such parking?

  • One other difference between back in and pull in angle parking is the effect it has on following through traffic. With pull in, there is little to no delay for following through traffic. Then when leaving the parking space, the burden is on the pull-in parked vehicle to find a gap. With back in, the following through traffic is delayed during the parking maneuver, but pulling out is easier.

    Which all gives the ‘green light’ to back-in angle parking when we are trying to design a pedestrian oriented shopping street, where one of the leading concerns is ‘traffic calming’.

    We have to be very specific when thinking about where back-in angle parking can be used appropriately. So, a little delay caused by the back-in parking manoeuvre is OK on streets where we would like drivers to be hyper aware of other vehicle and pedestrian movements.

  • Hi Daniel. I was just telling my daughter about the back-in diagonal parking in Chattanooga, TN. All the angles parking in their Main Street area was like this in 2012 when I visited.

  • When I was a campus planner in Boulder, Colorado, I advocated and got a “pilot” installation along University east of Broadway. It is still there today. This stretch has a very popular, downhill on-street bike lane where cyclists move very quickly. We were seeing 10 to 15 serious bike/car crashes per year with a traditional angled parking arrangement. That dropped to zero the following two years (I left in 2014) after initial installation. The only knock was about 5% of the space (1 or 2) would always be cut-across parkers. The City, who was responsible for enforcement, was reluctant to impose a stiff fine for parking that way because it was technically a pilot so it was difficult to educate drivers to park properly.

    In a college setting, the advantages of reverse angle parking are tremendous. I had run into it first at the University of Arizona. Links to both are below,-105.274895,148m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en&authuser=0,-110.9573548,87m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en&authuser=0

  • Enjoyed the reading. Have been thinking where in USA traffic parking is this concept being used. Please send me a couple of Minnesota or other set parking scenarios (in url link or .pdf format) or studies on the success/challenges of reverse chevron or reverse angle parking. It really makes sense, as first-responders have used this mode of parking for many years. I think we regular folk can handle it. I would like to experiment with a valet/public parking scenario at an event.

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    Mike Spack

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