Location: Emporia

Emporia: Is Angled Parking Unsafe For Cyclists?

Angled ParkingDowntown Emporia, Kansas is getting some new bike racks, which are being provided to beautify the downtown area and encourage alternative transportation. (Presumably, these racks are the result of last year’s Emporia Bike Rack Design Competition).

This is great news! KTKA in Topeka has the story:

Taxpayers in Emporia will be happy about a free perk coming to the downtown area. Twelve bike racks are in the plans for Commercial Street between 4th and 12th Street.

Emporia Mainstreet will pay for them and welding students at Flint Hills Technical College will build the racks. The Emporia Trails Board is donating 400 dollars to the project to improve the health of the community and environment.

It’s also a safety feature. Rachael LeClear of Flint Hills Technical College says, “It’s not very safe because of the way the cars are parked at an angle and back out into traffic, it’s not safe for bikes to ride on the street there, so a lot of them do end up riding on the sidewalk. I think that if we had places for them to park, they can come up the side streets and park, and then walk to where they need to go. So I think it will be very helpful.”

Each rack will include a Kiosk on the side, to show a map of downtown Emporia and a schedule of upcoming events for the town. The racks will have a special powder coating to make them virtually maintenance-free.

Read more and watch the video: 12 new bike racks coming to downtown Emporia

But one phrase from that piece kind of jumps out: “It’s not safe for bikes to ride on the street.”

The concern about angled-in parking is well-justified, but bicyclists are safer riding in the street than on the sidewalk (Bicycling on the street is >20 times safer than riding on the sidewalk), and the street is the proper place for bicyclists to be. And beyond that, if it’s safe for a car to drive down a street with angled parking, why wouldn’t it be safe to ride a bicycle down that same street?

Instead, perhaps we should provide bicyclists with some tips about the best way to ride on a street with angle parking:

  • Ride in the center of the lane, where you’re most visible. Speeds in downtown areas with angled parking are typically low; you’re not impeding traffic. Don’t ride near the parked cars.
  • Watch for brake lights from parked cars, indicating that they may suddenly pull out.
  • Watch carefully for any movement of parked cars. Often, as a person sits down in a car, starts it, or shifts it into gear, the car will visibly jolt.
  • Watch for heads in parked cars. If you can see a head, there’s a person inside, and they may move the car suddenly!
  • If the weather is cool, watch for car exhaust, which is often most visible immediately after an engine is started. The driver may simply be keeping the car warm while they wait for someone in a shop, or they mat be planning to back out.
  • If a car is stopped in the street, and you’re coming up behind, don’t pass them on their right. They may be waiting for a parked car to exit, or they may be planning to pull into a parking space themselves. Wait patiently for the street to clear before proceeding.
  • Watch out for cars that may pass you and then right-hook you as they attempt to enter a parking space. Again, this is another reason to ride in the center of the lane, not on the right.
  • Be prepared to stop!
  • If you’re slowing or stopping, be sure to use the appropriate hand signal (extend your left upper arm out to the left, parallel to the road and angle your forearm vertically downward) to indicate your intentions to any following traffic.

Or, how about considering converting the street from angled-in parking to back-in parking? Back-in angle parking: what is it, and when and where is it most effective?

By adding the bike racks, Emporia is encouraging its citizens to ride their bikes more, and that’s a wonderful thing. But let’s not discourage bicyclists from riding in the street!

By the way, the winning bike rack design has not yet been chosen. You can vote here.

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web’s premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

3 responses to “Emporia: Is Angled Parking Unsafe For Cyclists?”

  1. John B. says:

    Randy,
    I was just looking at a proposal here in Wichita for streetscape improvement–a Complete Streets plan, by the way–and it takes up the question of angled parking. The plan calls for curbside parallel parking, the rationale being that it is safer for cyclists in bike lanes than angled parking is.

  2. Randy says:

    Lincoln, Nebraska actually ended up locating one of their bike lanes in the middle of the street to avoid angled parking (see Lincoln Becoming More Bicycle-Friendly and here). There’s also a good discussion of the challenges of dealing with angled parking here.

    Oh, and Complete Streets being discussed in Wichita? That’s encouraging!

  3. Angled parking is a real hazard for cyclists. I’m glad to see that they are thinking through the issues.