About Parallel Parking

Written by valerie david
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About Parallel Parking
(c2006 Witek Burkiewicz at stock xchng)

Most drivers, particularly suburban drivers who are used to angled parking and private driveways, dread having to parallel park. Unlike the simple turn of a wheel into a garage space, parallel parking requires a sharp eye and a knack for geometry. Mistakes in parallel parking can lead to anything from bumper scratches to major scraping and denting. In spite of these difficulties, urban epicentres and small sleepy towns alike use rows of parallel parking on narrow streets, making it necessary for all drivers to learn this important parking skill.


Parallel parking is a type of street parking that allows for one row of cars on each side, evenly spaced and parallel to the curb. Parallel parking is used on streets that are too narrow or traffic-filled for perpendicular or angled parking. Manoeuvring a car into the small space between other parked cars is a skill that requires practice to be performed well. Drivers must be able to expertly gauge the size of their own vehicle, the necessary angle to manoeuvre into the parking spot, and the location of the other vehicles that need to be avoided. In a generous sized space, expert parallel parking can be completed in one smooth, S-shaped movement with no further adjustments needed.


Parallel parking in small towns and shopping districts is typically marked with white brackets to delineate the separate spaces. Urban residential areas have no lines and cars may be spaced unevenly. Learn the parameters of your own vehicle so you can easily gauge if a parallel parking space is large enough for you to park in. One-way streets can have parking on both sides of the street, so it's important for drivers to be skilled at driver's side parking as well as passenger side. The main technique for parallel parking is to pull up next to the car at the front of the open space, just a few feet shy of that car's front bumper. Then turn the wheel sharply to back your vehicle into the opening, spinning the wheel in the opposite direction about halfway in, to slide your car into the space. This may take some trial and error adjustments to get the car in line with the others in the row. When there are two or more spaces in a row available, it is easier to just turn into the first available space, then drive forward along the curb until your car is aligned properly in a space farther forward. Automakers like BMW, Lexus and Toyota now offer cars with an auto-parking feature. These vehicles use computer and camera technology to park the car with no driver assistance.


Parallel parking is most prevalent in urban areas, where office buildings, stores, apartments and homes are built close together with little available space for car parks or garages. In contrast, suburban and rural residential areas typically have homes with driveways and private garages for parking, with parallel parking as overflow or for guests. Small towns with stores and restaurants built along the street use parallel parking spaces along the curbs in addition to a public lot or garage.


Parallel parking is a skill that can take time to learn. Practice on empty streets with plenty of room between cars, before tackling parallel parking for your driver's test or on a busy city street. A friend can help by standing outside the car and letting you know how close you are to the curb or bumpers of the other cars--but they should NEVER stand in the path of the car's tires or out in the street. The trick when backing into a space is to know when to start turning the wheel in the opposite direction. If you hit the curb on that first turn, you've come in too sharply. Smaller spaces will require more forward and backward adjustments until the car is perfectly in line with the vehicles in front and behind. Parallel parked cars should have enough space between them so each car can move in and out of the space freely. The side of the vehicle should be no more than 18 inches from the curb.


Take your time when parallel parking and be aware of your surroundings. Check that there is no one passing behind your car as you back into a space. Choose a space with enough room to park in to avoid scraping or hitting other parked cars. Always check that the vehicles in front and behind you will have enough space to get out, or you may end up with a scraped or dented bumper when they try to leave. Auto-parking features work well to get into tight spaces, but if the cars around you don't have this feature, they won't be happy that you boxed them in.

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