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Why do some people park backwards?
December 16, 2005 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Why do some people take the time to back their car into a parking space? Is it vanity or utility?
posted by tfmm to Travel & Transportation (60 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
A buddy of mine *always* does this. When I asked him about it, he says that as a child he always day-dreamed of the Immediate Getaway and as such, has always backed into spots in the 1 in 1 brazilian chance he needs to flee the scene.

He's near 50 now, btw.
posted by unixrat at 10:08 AM on December 16, 2005


Utility.

Reverse parking is actually easier than front-in parking, once you get used to it, as there is better maneuverability.

It seems to be that parking front-in only is primarily a US phenomenon. In Europe and Asia (well, Singapore and Malaysia at least), where parking spaces tend to be smaller than in the US (well, Texas at least!) many people reverse park in car parks because it's easier to get in to and out of a tight spot that way.
posted by netsirk at 10:12 AM on December 16, 2005


It's just nice to be able to hop in your car and take off without having to backup. I only do it when I can pull through into a space though, taking the time to backup into a space is too much work.

Derail:
What I've always wondered is why apartment complexes and schools always forbid back in and pull through parking.

posted by puke & cry at 10:12 AM on December 16, 2005


I've always wondered about this, too. Everyone backs into parking spaces in Japan. I always thought it was similar to the way that people turn their shoes when they take them off. They are always be pointed towards the door so people can step into them for a quick getaway. I assume it would be the same with parking.
posted by Alison at 10:12 AM on December 16, 2005


I was told by someone who works for a utility company - and who receives all kinds of safety courses - that it's safer in the case of emergency. As a matter of fact, in his company parking lot, he is *required* to park this way at all times.
posted by seawallrunner at 10:12 AM on December 16, 2005


I try to do this when I can. It's called "pull-through parking". It's easier than backing. As for doing it against a wall or a curb where you can't "pull-through", it's a good idea for a number of reasons. 1. Quick getaways 2. Better visibility when departing

When I worked at Fedex as a courier we were always taught to back in or pull-through. It's a lot safer to back into a curb or spot against a wall than to try to back out into possible traffic flow.
posted by letterneversent at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2005


fancyparking.com is dedicated to this subject.
posted by ewagoner at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2005


I typically only back the car up when parking at home. My reasoning is that when I'm coming home I'm not in a rush and can spend the extra 30 seconds backing the car up. But when leaving for work or errands, I'm usually shooting for a scheduled time at which point I saddle up and ride away.
posted by Tacodog at 10:17 AM on December 16, 2005


Crazy. I was watching someone back into a spot this morning, and had precisely the same thought.

In a crowded parking lot, it's much easier to edge out into traffic with one movement, than having to reverse out and then drive forward.
posted by brheavy at 10:18 AM on December 16, 2005


I always figured that people who didn't back-in were just being lazy. I mean, you'll have to reverse at some point, why not just get it out of the way now?

...and if you accidentally punch the mayor in the nose in a hilariously comedic situation, you do have that extra six seconds to use as a getaway.
posted by Imperfect at 10:21 AM on December 16, 2005


As a traffic control device, you often see back-in only diagonal parking. Its used for two reasons, it's better for flow as people leave and it narrows the roadway more than parallel parking which calms the speed of flow.

The things you learn when married to an urban transportation planner.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:22 AM on December 16, 2005


What I've always wondered is why apartment complexes and schools always forbid back in and pull through parking.

Because you could be aiming your exhaust pipe directly at open basement-level windows.
posted by jon_kill at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2005


FYI Puke & Cry - apartment complexes and universities often forbid backing in because they often issue/sell parking permits to be affixed on the rear window. When all the cars are parked frontside-in it makes it easier for a security guard to cruise by and check for stickers.
posted by peppermint22 at 10:24 AM on December 16, 2005


The car turns better and is more manuevurable in reverse as said above. Add to that that most new cars cheap to luxury come with parking sensors and folding mirrors, at least in places like China/HK and Japan (AFAIK). Spots is tiny there, man.
posted by kcm at 10:26 AM on December 16, 2005


It saves you petrol. You do all the twisting & turning with a warm engine that uses less fuel.
posted by priorpark17 at 10:29 AM on December 16, 2005 [1 favorite]


I back-in to avoid backing out.

When I'm parking, I'm in the flow of traffic, and know what's going-on around me... but when I'm leaving a stall, it's almost impossible to see what's going-on as I back out. So I back-in to give me safer sight-lines upon departure.

Well, that, and it's easier to manouevre backing-in... so it's easier to center the car in its stall.
posted by silusGROK at 10:32 AM on December 16, 2005


I've found that, expecially in busy parking garages, facing the traffic that is flowing past you allows you to make eye-contact with the drivers of other cars and increases your chances that someone will let you out into traffic. It also decreases your chances that you will back out at the same time someone directly behind you is backing out and you have a fender-bender.

Think of it this way: if you are approaching an empty space, you have good, clear view in front and behind you. You are aware of the traffic that is around you at that moment, and so you can fairly easily back into that space at that moment. Then, when you go to leave, you have good, clear view of the lane you are about to pull into. You are not backing out into the lane and possible traffic that is not visible cause your back is to it.

I also love the idea of the Quick Getaway! Vrooommm!!!
posted by UnclePlayground at 10:33 AM on December 16, 2005


Backing into a spot makes it harder to open the door for your passenger in a lot of cases (approaching the car from the front). Just saying.
posted by kcm at 10:37 AM on December 16, 2005


A slight derail -- I never back in or pull through when I park at the grocery store, because I put the groceries in the trunk and it's too hard to get at if I do.
posted by JanetLand at 10:39 AM on December 16, 2005


When I do it it's simply to have better visibility pulling out of the space, but I only back in when there's not much traffic. I've got a fairly large SUV and I can have a lot of vehicle in the traffic lane before I can easily see in both directions.

seawallrunner, I'm surprised that the utility emphasizes backing up so much, unless it's with vans or other smaller vehicles. Most large trucks have very poor visibility directly behind (you can't look out a back window) and backing up is usually best avoided or minimized.
posted by tommasz at 10:42 AM on December 16, 2005


fancyparking.com is dedicated to this subject.

OK,

A) Wierd.

B) This site needs a FPP. Or something. Somehow.

Personally, I usually don't "fancy park" because I want to get in somewhere quicker than I want to get out. Once I have the burger, my jones is gone and I can take my sweet time backing out.
posted by GuyZero at 10:45 AM on December 16, 2005


Ok the case for utility is obvious but what about vanity? How could backing in be inspired by vanity... the front of the car looks better or something?
posted by scheptech at 10:47 AM on December 16, 2005


I either do the pull-through parking or the back-in parking so that when I'm leaving the parking spot I have a better view of oncoming cars. The situation I hate the most is parking front-in and having two hulking vehicles on either side of my Jetta, making it nearly impossible to see oncoming traffic and pulling blindly out of the parking spot. All too often oncoming cars don't slow down to let me out as I back up and I've had near collisions with people trying to whip by me. I don't think it's vain at all.
posted by KathyK at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2005


I hate my neighbors because they back in, but they do it badly. We don't have a lot of space, and they're usually between a few inches and a foot into my space, so often I can't help but hit the side of their car with my door. Over and over.
posted by goatdog at 11:05 AM on December 16, 2005


Universities usually ban back-in parking because they have sticker decals on the back windshield to verify the driver is a student. It makes the sticker-checker have to get out of his little electric car and go around the wrong end to check to see if you're allowed to park there.

Most diagonal parking form lots have only one-way directions that you're allowed to enter from, making it practically impossible to rear-park unless you drive in from the wrong side.

I always wondered why parking in a line (front end to tail end, as along a skyscraper-dense block might warrant) was called parallel parking, since you're making a line, but not when you're parking side-by-side as in a lot.

The only time I ever inverted-park is when there is an empty space in front of me (and no middle barrier) that I can just pull thru into.
posted by vanoakenfold at 11:08 AM on December 16, 2005


Vanity? No, it's just getting the hard part over with while you can see what's going on around you. I always do it, unless I'll have groceries. My pet peeve: people who ignore my turn signal and backup lights and zip into my target space from behind me. Idjits.

Backing into a spot makes it harder to open the door for your passenger in a lot of cases (approaching the car from the front). Just saying.
posted by kcm


Please say some more. I don't understand.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2005


I always wondered why parking in a line (front end to tail end, as along a skyscraper-dense block might warrant) was called parallel parking

Because you're parking parallel to the street.
posted by redfoxtail at 11:16 AM on December 16, 2005


Seawallrunner, my father-in-law used to work for Tacoma Public Utilities and they required back-in parking as well...not just for utility trucks, but by private cars parking in their parking lot as well.
posted by lhauser at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2005


I often back into the space at parking lots for the main purpose that I tend to end up boxed in between two giant Escalade-esque SUVs parked on either side of me. If I'm facing forward, I have more control over getting out and am less likely to hit the idiot zooming through the parking lot (or a pedestrian).
posted by rolypolyman at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2005


I almost never back little Honda in. In the wide open spaces of big box lotland I'd rather be backing into the big empty void of the lane then the narrow channel between two SUVs.

I wonder how much backing in saves on a get away time? I would love to see some actual tests. Assuming no fear of unexpected other traffic, you can 180 a front wheel drive car in reverse pretty wickedly.
posted by Leonard at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2005


Universities usually ban back-in parking because they have sticker decals on the back windshield to verify the driver is a student. It makes the sticker-checker have to get out of his little electric car and go around the wrong end to check to see if you're allowed to park there.

Then why don't they just put the decals on the front windshield? That is usually where the inspection stickers are.

I've always wondered why back-in parking is so frowned upon, not just in universities and in apartment complexes, but almost everywhere in the US. Municipal parking lots and shopping mall parking lots often have signs saying "front-in parking only."

The only reason I can possibly think of is that it takes marginally longer to back in. Drivers behind the back-inner will get impatient. Of course it may take longer to back out of a space but unless the back-outer is a bad driver, he or she would be the one mainly inconvenieced since he must wait for it to be clear anyway.
posted by xetere at 11:35 AM on December 16, 2005


I had a conversation with my friend about this the other day. I noticed that a lot, like 75 percent of people who park this way do it really, really badly.
posted by Number27 at 11:45 AM on December 16, 2005


I drive an Isuzu Rodeo (it was a gift, stop glaring at me) and I back into spots because of something my godmother tells her 17 year old daughter (who drives a suburban that's nearly that old)..."wouldn't you feel terrible if you backed over someone's child?" This mostly applies to things like football games but I feel like it's a good habit. And there are two very small children across the street from me. And their little dog.
posted by bilabial at 11:48 AM on December 16, 2005


As for why many locations don't allow back-in parking, most have unidirectional traffic flow (spaces angled toward you). Backing in forces you to leave against traffic, therefore casuing issues.

Where there are right angle spaces in lots? No idea.
posted by karmaville at 11:53 AM on December 16, 2005


front-in parking only
They want to see your plate to check if you owe money to the man. If you do they put a boot on your wheel. (ann arbor,MI)
posted by JohnR at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2005


I noticed that a lot, like 75 percent of people who park this way do it really, really badly.

And I've noticed that a lot of people who park the other way do it really, really badly. Since they don't require you to know how to parallel park to get a license any more, only old people seem to know it. The rest just double-park.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2005


Backing into a spot makes it harder to open the door for your passenger in a lot of cases (approaching the car from the front). Just saying.
posted by kcm


redfoxtail, I believe that kcm is referring to the practice of the driver opening the door for the passenger for chivalrous reasons or otherwise. I can see how that would be akward unless you approach the car from a rear position.
posted by brheavy at 12:20 PM on December 16, 2005


Sorry, I meant to address Kirth Gerson.
posted by brheavy at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2005


But why does backing in have anything to do with that? Does your soon-to-be passenger always approach the car from the street? I'd have thought the reverse.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:26 PM on December 16, 2005


Is it me, or is this not an Americano-centric question in the first place?
posted by A189Nut at 12:28 PM on December 16, 2005


Why should that matter? It's still a valid question
posted by brheavy at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2005


Weird but related -- near my work, there's a bank of ninety-degree parking where you have to park nose-to-kerb.

If you reverse in, you're liable for a $75 fine.

I often tell people about this if I see them trying to park the "wrong" way and after establishing that I'm not kidding, they're very thankful.

Why, other than the council just wanting to make money, would this be so? There's no factor like a sticker being in the front or back of the car, it's public parking and everything's electronic.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:23 PM on December 16, 2005


I was taught in driving school that pull-through parking is dangerous (not to mention illegal in many jurisdictions), because you might collide with someone racing in to seize that parking spot.
posted by randomstriker at 1:23 PM on December 16, 2005


In drivers ed, we were taught to always back into a space. The reasoning was that backing up is more dangerous that going forward, so by backing into a space, you're limiting the area into which you're backing, reducing your chance of hitting pedestrians, children, what have you. Then later when you pull out into the great unknown, you can do it facing forward.

I never back into spaces, however. I'm not entirely sure I remember how.
posted by stray at 1:24 PM on December 16, 2005


Wow, there are some weird responses to this question, and I think my reason probably goes on the strange list too.

My parking space has my car facing northwest if I park head-in. During the cooler months, I back in so that my windshield will be facing southeast. This gives me a better chance of not having to scrape frost off the windshield in the morning, because the sun will sometimes burn it off.

Yeah, my girlfriend and I have already discussed the efficiency of this technique, but there have been days when her front windshield was frosted and her back windshield was clear and the reverse was true for me.
posted by revgeorge at 1:32 PM on December 16, 2005


Most large trucks have very poor visibility directly behind (you can't look out a back window) and backing up is usually best avoided or minimized.

But most large trucks also have extended side mirrors and/or additional concave mirrors that permit a driver to safely reverse into a parking space without ever looking back over her shoulder. If you reverse while looking out your back window, you are much more likely to hit a small child or other unseen obstacle.
posted by naomi at 1:45 PM on December 16, 2005


And most really large trucks routinely back up to the loading docks that are their destinations. (Which operation is a major reason I never wanted to be a truck driver.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:49 PM on December 16, 2005


But why does backing in have anything to do with that? Does your soon-to-be passenger always approach the car from the street? I'd have thought the reverse.

If you've backed in, it's more likely that the rear of your car is A, facing a wall or building, or B, facing the front of the car in the spot behind you (after you've pulled a "park through"), thus making an approach from the rear more difficult. I think your point applies in situations of on-street parking that isn't parallel to the street, though that seems to be less common in many places than the parallel kind.

Weird but related -- near my work, there's a bank of ninety-degree parking where you have to park nose-to-kerb.

Here in the states at least, there are a few places that don't require registration tags on the front of the vehicle. Not sure, in the absence of that scenario, why this would be required. I wonder if there's a fear that folks backing in may be more apt to misjudge the distance and end up on a sidewalk with pedestrians? Seems ridiculous but clearly a lot of motor vehicle laws are.

Then why don't they just put the decals on the front windshield? That is usually where the inspection stickers are.

Some areas prohibit any decals or stickers other than the state-issued inspection decal on the front window. Besides, if the type is really small, it may be hard to read given that most hoods are longer than most trunks. That being said, I suppose the front bumper would work.
posted by jalexei at 1:49 PM on December 16, 2005


brazilian chance he needs to flee the scene.

What's a "brazilian chance"?
posted by languagehat at 2:43 PM on December 16, 2005


What's a "brazilian chance"?

It a pun playing off the similarity between the words "billion" and "brazillian." Same idea as saying, "A one in a bajizzillion chance."
posted by stet at 2:49 PM on December 16, 2005


At my friend's condo (the strata council of which is absurdly anal) they won't let you back in the underground parking spaces because "it leaves a dirty exhaust smudge" on the wall. they enforce this to the extent of having made up parking tickets some retired saddo puts under your windshield if you park wrong.

As noted, a lot of the backing-in parking restrictions are probably because of proximity of air intakes on nearby buildings.

Backing in to my driveway in winter, with a warm car, makes it easier to leave if the car is not 100% defrosted and thus rear visibilty is sub-optimal for backing into a busy street.
posted by Rumple at 2:55 PM on December 16, 2005


Because it's better to back into a wall that you know is there, than another vehicle that you don't.
posted by mykescipark at 3:10 PM on December 16, 2005


But if you back into a 90 degree spot, don't you run into the probably of having to go past the spot to get into it? In a parking-scarce lot, some jerk right behind you is likely to just front-in when you go past the spot regardless of whether you signal or not.
posted by juv3nal at 3:30 PM on December 16, 2005


OK, the Fancy Park website is hilarious.

My partner is from Colombia and this is the only way they park.
posted by _zed_ at 5:55 PM on December 16, 2005


If you listen to my former boss tell it, he'll tell you that it's because (gruff voice) "Look at that, as they were coming to work they were already thinking about leaving."
posted by Slap Incognito at 6:04 PM on December 16, 2005


Weird but related -- near my work, there's a bank of ninety-degree parking where you have to park nose-to-kerb.
(snip)
Why, other than the council just wanting to make money, would this be so? There's no factor like a sticker being in the front or back of the car, it's public parking and everything's electronic.


Because if this is on a 2-way street, and you're backing in, you have to pull out in front of the oncoming traffic, and you're already blocking the traffic behind you - you're blocking 2 lanes.

If you front-in, you only block the folks behind you for a few seconds.
posted by tristeza at 6:38 PM on December 16, 2005


Riddle me this:

Why on earth doesn't everybody take advantage of pull-through parking when it's available?

I just don't understand. Someone will pull into a perfect pull-through situation, with tons of space and all... and ignores it. WTF, Sherlock? How on earth can that make any sense at all?

Mostly, I just resign myself to figuring that it's just proof positive that most people are dumber than a sack of hammers.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:55 AM on December 17, 2005


I do believe you've answered your own question, Mr. Fish.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:42 AM on December 18, 2005


What's a "brazilian chance"?

It a pun playing off the similarity between the words "billion" and "brazillian." Same idea as saying, "A one in a bajizzillion chance."



Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the President sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion?"
posted by danny the boy at 10:56 PM on December 18, 2005


you'll have to reverse at some point, why not just get it out of the way now?

Your choices are to reverse into the spot or out of it. There are pros and cons to each. I believe all the pros/cons are based on the fact that it's a little trickier to back up than to go forward.

Reversing into the spot:

pros: you are backing up into a set space which you know has nothing in it

cons: it is probably a confined space with cars on either side. You have to be pretty accurate or you might damage a neighboring car.

Reversing out of the spot:

pros: you are backing up into a more open lane or street with plenty of room. You just sort of aim the car backward and swing out. Less to worry about hitting than backing into the spot between two parked cars.

cons: there might be other cars driving through that lane, or pedestrians, or bikes, whatever. You'll be backing into them, not able to see them well or control the car well if something goes wrong. A parking space is a less scary space to back into than a potentially bustling street.

I think most people just delay the difficult reversal for later as opposed to getting it out of the way now. And I think backing into a small space seems too tricky for a lot of people to try. Those who have the hang of it may enjoy having a clear view when they come out, or just might be showing off their parking prowess.
posted by scarabic at 5:47 PM on July 5, 2006


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