There must be a scientific correlation between advances in automobile technology and the increase in lazy, inept driving. The better the cars get, the worse drivers become. Perhaps we can call it the “Ventura Correlation,” in honour of all the drivers who are complaining about the back-in-only parking spots on Ventura Boulevard in the Woodland Hills neighbourhood of Los Angeles. Installed on Aug. 14, the back-in angled spots are the first of their kind in that city. According to the Los Angeles Times, the issue of back-in-parking “is a divisive one, with opinions split among customers, store owners and community advocates.”
What’s so divisive? Councilmember Bob Blumenfield told the paper, “The problem is the reversing, I guess; it makes sense for safety, but we’ve had our share of clients who complained.”
Ah yes, that most difficult of driving moves – reversing.
Forget Turn 8 at Istanbul Park Circuit or the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, putting an automatic transmission vehicle in reverse and reversing it remains one of the most daunting feats in all of motorsports, let alone everyday driving. It requires the ability to move a lever and carefully step off the brake pedal and step on the gas pedal, something rats have been trained to do.
The back-in parking spots on Ventura have pushed some drivers to the outermost limits of their skill. As Woodland Hills Bookstore owner David Kaye put it, “There was one girl who looked so confused and she circled the block something like six times before just quitting and driving away.”
Back-in-parking makes a lot of sense. It is always preferable to back into a parking space, regardless of its angle, though many drivers don’t. Back-in angled parking is safer for cyclists because drivers are not opening their doors into the lane. It’s safer for drivers, who are not stepping into traffic and it is easier to pull out into traffic.
The big knock against it is that some drivers are not comfortable when using “reverse.”
Have we really reached such a low as a species that reversing an automobile has become the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest?
On May 23, 2023, the headline “‘Hallelujah’: Back-in-only parking to end in downtown Peoria” greeted the citizens of that Illinois city. The Peoria Journal Star reported that “City Council voted unanimously, and quite happily, on Tuesday night to allocate $75,000 to end the requirement that drivers back into certain parking spots downtown.”
The back-in parking had been installed because of safety concerns, but those concerns were assuaged by the reality that many Peorians do not appear to have the motor skills required to reverse an automobile without calamity.
Councilmember Chuck Grayeb told the Journal Star, “If I could vote six times on this I would. I have had zero positive comments about the current regime that we have and I think this will be a move forward…The fact is a lot of people, myself included, find it difficult to back-in and it’s hard to see, especially if you have a larger vehicle, how far back you can go. I think this is a step forward for safety, not a step backward.”
I have never met Chuck Grayeb. I have no idea of his driving skill. However, I assert that any person who admits that they find “it difficult to back in” is probably not a skilled driver. I would also assert that if your vehicle is so large that it is hard to see “how far back you can go” then it’s probably time to buy a smaller vehicle.
Peoria Mayor Rita Ali distinguished herself by adding, “I consider myself a good driver, but I don’t go backwards as well as I go forward.”
Well, Mayor Rita Ali, that just goes to show you how inaccurate “considering” can be when applied to driving.
Councilman John Kelly’s contribution to the chorus was “Hallelujah.”
Hallelujah to the end of back-in-parking.
That’s where we are as a species, folks – praising God because we no longer have to reverse our too-large automobiles into back-in-parking spaces. Perhaps Kelly meant it in a more mournful Leonard Cohen “cold and it’s a broken” Hallelujah sort of way.
Then again, perhaps I am in the minority. I’m known for my extremist driving views. I believe that if you find backing into a parking space difficult, maybe driving isn’t for you. I could be wrong. Perhaps all that’s required is the ability to exhale carbon dioxide and inhale oxygen while keeping both your hands on the steering wheel.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! How bad at back-in parking.