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Is Back-In Angled Parking Working in Union Square?

A new method of parking in Union Square—that has created 11 new parking spots but narrowed a traffic lane—has begun in Union Square. It's an experiment. Do you think it's working?

Back-in angled parking is now under way in Union Square.

, in which drivers back into angled spots, is meant to create more parking spots, increase safety for pedestrians, drivers and bikers, make it easier to load and unload your car, and be safer to pull out into traffic when leaving.

The new parking configuration, on Bow Street in Union Square, adds about 11 new parking spots to the business district, but it also narrows the traffic lane.

A video on the  website shows Bow Street's back-in angled parking in action. The video was created by LivableStreets, a biking, walking and transit advocacy group, and it includes interviews with locals who love the new parking method.

Check out the video here.

An article in the Boston Herald paints a different picture, though.

The Herald quotes some local business owners who say the parking change isn't working. Some bicyclists told the Herald that narrowing Bow Street's traffic lane makes the street more dangerous.

The Herald article also includes a video. You can read and watch here.

Union Square's back-in angled parking experiment is a pilot program, which means it's not set in stone.

Do you think it's working? Is it too soon to tell? Is the Herald just being cranky Or is the program a dud?

mark June 01, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I think it's great! Traffic is going at a nice slow speed which makes it safer for pedestrians. As for cars in the bike lane, this is a problem everywhere. It's still better to have bike lanes than not. Also, who can be against more parking spaces.
Rob Buchanan June 01, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I live a block away from Bow St, and I think this pilot project is working fairly well. It's important to recognize that three changes occurred at once: 1) addition of designated bike lane, 2) back-in angle parking, and 3) a vehicle-lane drop (although the last one is debatable since it was never clear whether there were two lanes or one, since there were no stripes.) 1. Traffic speeds are definitely down. It used to be that once drivers escaped the madness of Union Sq (a traffic planning mistake if there ever was one), that they would step on the gas once they hit Bow Street. Now they wait till they get to Summer or Walnut Streets. 2. The bike lane adds more visibility for bicyclists. While a few bicyclists give a bad name for all bicyclists, it's a fact that adding safety features to the roadway encourages more people to bike, and not just the daredevils who ignore red lights, but regular folks too. 3. The lane-drop may be an issue, and I would say the jury is still out on that. I would say that 90% of the time, things work just fine. However, when delivery trucks double-park in the vehicle lane (illegal??), it sends cars into the bike lane. Also, a right-turn lane onto Walnut would prevent Bow St back-ups as cars wait for pedestrians in the crosswalk. 4. I'm not convinced back-in parking is better than front-in parking, especially when there is only one vehicle lane. Tailgaters get angry. But this is a pilot, and we should give it more time before evaluating.
Joe Lynch June 01, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I did hear from at least two delivery folks who hate it. The loading zones are now located on the opposite side of the street necessitating delivery folks to cross the street with their products.
kelly speakman June 01, 2012 at 03:29 PM
the worst. if you are parked behind a large truck it's impossible to see if you are going to cream a pedestrian or someone in the bike lane. traffic is backed up all day long.
Rob Buchanan June 01, 2012 at 03:45 PM
I walk down there all the time at different times of the day. I only see it backed up during rush hour and when cars illegally double park in the road. The rest of the time, it's smooth sailing (although at lower speeds).
Chris Devers June 01, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Backing into parking spaces is much better than going in nose first. People are confused by it because very few people know how to do it, but it has several benefits over the nose-in method. • You can't avoid backing up. Your only choices are to back into a space, or back into traffic. If you back into the space, you can easily roll past the space before pulling into it, and make sure that there are no objects, people, etc that you're about to drive over; if you back into traffic, you're taking a gamble every time that no people or cars are about to jump out at you from one of your blind spots. • If you're parked with your trunk toward the sidewalk, it's much easier to load the trunk safely. • When pulling out of the space, you have much better visibility in the direction you're about to go, and can quickly & efficiently move into the traffic flow. Etc. It's a no-brainer. All angled parking should work this way.
Jim McGinnis June 01, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Kelly, I live on Bow St right in the middle of the new parking zone, and am around during the day. I can't imagine how you got the impression that traffic is backed up all day. Last Friday, the first day the new parking was in place, had heavy traffic in the evening at the start of the holiday weekend. There were backups at the usual places on Somerville Ave and Washington St, but I didn't see any that stretched into Bow S. Drivers were gawking as they went rhough, as you might expect, but after a week the novelty is wearing off and speeds are up a bit, though definitely lower than they were before.
Charlie Denison June 01, 2012 at 06:32 PM
It seems to be working well. Traffic speeds are definitely down, yet traffic flow generally seems perfectly fine. I noticed that some motorists are driving in the bike lane for almost the entire stretch. Also, many motorists seem a bit unclear about the proper way to merge right to go to Summer St. It would be good to find a way to make that a little bit clearer what the expected behavior is. Overall though, it's a big improvement over what was there before!
Ron Newman June 01, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I think the bike lane needs to be dashed earlier before the fork to Summer Street, to match the way drivers are actually driving there. Otherwise, keep the experiment going for a while.
Jonah Petri June 02, 2012 at 12:43 AM
I agree with Ron — the bike lane near the Bow / Summer St intersection wasn't designed correctly. Bikers staying on Bow St should take the full lane to avoid being right hooked by drivers who are fenced over to the left by the new bike lane striping, and are left with no time to merge properly. I just hope it's fixed before someone gets hurt! Also, the new bike lane makes it difficult to go "straight" on Washington St westbound - you're forced over onto Bow St before you know what's going on. All in all I'm just not that enamored with the choices the striping designers made. Anyone know who was responsible for the bike lane striping design? Was there a public comment period on this design?
Lucas Rogers June 02, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Surely enforcement is needed to ensure that the loading zones are used for loading, not lanes meant for moving traffic? If traffic is a little slower, I think that's a good thing. Bow street has much commercial and pedestrian activity, not to mention several residential buildings, and I think that high automobile speeds are inappropriate. Clearly speeding has been an issue on Summer Street just west of Bow, as the speed meter that had been installed there a short time ago made amply clear. I agree the transition from Bow to Summer is awkward. Perhaps some refinement is needed there.
jennifer D. June 02, 2012 at 12:27 PM
This has got to be be the most idiotic thing Somerville has ever done!!!! It is impossible to stop & back into these spots when traffic is moving! Very dangerous!!!! Get ready for lots of car & bike accidents!!! - A lot of Somervillans are saying they are not going to even bother, and business owners I have talked to are already complaining about a drop off in business. This was a super stupid move!
Ken Long June 02, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I drive through here almost every day, and I walk and bike the area regularly. This parking looks interesting and it slows traffic which is good, but I would never use it, and the situation its created for bikers and cars is downright dangerous. There are plenty of easier places to park on the street and in appropriate parking lots, and as far as biking this is just stupidity.
Yikesbikes June 02, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I always agree with comments more when they use lots of exclamation points!!! It really gets the point across!!! :-) People should keep in mind that this is new, and as others have mentioned, it is a bit of an experiment. It will take a bit to adjust, but I am happy that Somerville has decided to try something innovative. Slowed traffic, dedicated bike lanes, and more parking spots? I think time will tell that this was a good decision.
Mimi Graney June 02, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I'm not understanding the challenge around backing into the parking spaces. For parallel parking it's the same challenge and people seem to make that work. You know, the ol' hosey of the space -- put on your blinker, slow down, pull over, and the people behind figure out what you're trying to do and leave some room. Am I missing something?
Ron Newman June 02, 2012 at 05:27 PM
I just biked through the area again an hour ago, and saw that the city has already corrected this. Thank you for listening and for such fast service!
Ron Newman June 02, 2012 at 05:28 PM
When I passed through the area an hour ago, all but two of the back-in parking spaces were in use. (And one of the two empty ones was designated for handicapped use.)
David Ford June 02, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Are you ALL insane? How does ANYTHING change? If you put this into numbers, instead of words, the ONLY difference is we run over bikes going INTO a spot instead of out. Nothing has changed. Didnt get worse and didnt get better. How do you have to wait for people pulling into a spot? You also have to wait for them to pull out. I just asked this prob too two teenagers, and they agree with me. LOL> Good job Somerville! :P
Rob Buchanan June 02, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Actually, one of the most common causes of accidents is people backing out of standard angled parking without being able to see on-coming traffic. Reverse angled parking removes this difficulty. While there is initial stopping and signaling required for back-in angle parking, this is no different than standard parallel parking--actually, it's easier! Back-in angle parking has been implemented in dozens of cities across the U.S. Both Seattle and Tucson, which studied accidents before and after, reported a decrease in parking-related accidents after back-in angle parking was implemented.
Ron Newman June 02, 2012 at 07:48 PM
If I'm on a bike and a car ahead of me stops and begins backing into a parking space, that's going to be glaringly obvious to me. I then have the choice of either waiting for the driver to finish backing up, or going around the car on the left side. Either way, the driver will not be in any danger of hitting me on my bike.
Betty G June 03, 2012 at 03:53 PM
It does not take much to make me avoid an area. Harvard square is hell for a cyclist. I have not spent $ there in years. I live in Union , perhaps Capone's , Block 11, and the comic book store will see my $ go away as well.
Ron Newman June 03, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Give it a try. Union Square is *much* better for bicycling now than it was two weeks ago.
Jonah Petri June 04, 2012 at 12:18 AM
I bike through Union Sq every day to/from work. The back-in angle parking is definitely safer for me, and I totally support it.

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