Portland’s effort to redesign Spring Street is again confusing motorists, with some questioning the wisdom of new angled parking spots that require them to back in.

Making matters worse, lines for some of the new spaces were initially painted in the wrong direction, allowing drivers to nose in on the westbound side of the street, and the spots had to be repainted this week to follow the city’s new approach.

Over the summer, the city eliminated a more traditional parking arrangement that included parallel parking. In its place, workers added angled parking, increasing the number of spots available.

But rather than pulling in nose-first as they typically would, motorists must back up into the angled spots. The city says the change is intended to improve safety in the long run because motorists won’t have to back out into traffic when they are leaving, but it’s not going over well in the initial weeks.

“What I have to say, you probably can’t print,” Katherine Rydell said Wednesday after studying the situation and successfully backing into a spot.

As Rydell, 77, spoke, eight of 13 vehicles parked in the angled spots in the redesigned area of Spring Street had apparently crossed the oncoming traffic lane to pull into a parking spot nose-first, rather than backing up and parking on the side of the street where they had been traveling.

The new parking arrangement is part of a larger effort to make Spring Street more pedestrian friendly. So far, about $600,000 worth of improvements have been implemented in what was originally a $4.5 million, multiphase project.


Last week, the city said it was seeking permission from the state to reduce the size of a curb extension at the High Street intersection that has confused drivers and prompted a petition drive by residents opposed to the project. One westbound driver on Spring Street was observed driving over the sidewalk extension – or bump out – that was designed to improve pedestrian safety, while a few eastbound drivers were seen waiting in oncoming traffic to turn left onto High Street.

City officials, however, seem intent to give drivers time to get used to the new angled parking.

Planning and Urban Development Director Jeff Levine said that if the new arrangement continues to cause problems, the city can always change the striping, so drivers can pull in nose-first. He said a similar parking arrangement has been successfully implemented on Portland Street.

“We don’t want people crossing the street pulling into a parking space,” Levine said. The city plans to give drivers some time to get accustomed to the new parking pattern in the hopes they will like it, he said.

Among the motorists trying to navigate the new parking regime Wednesday was Scott Booth. He was sure he had the new system figured out, until he was told that crossing the road to park was actually incorrect.

“I had no idea you were supposed to back in,” Booth said.

Levine said the city should have done a better job of educating the public about the change before it was instituted.

Complicating matters was that some westbound parking spaces were originally painted so that drivers could pull in nose-first, while the eastbound spots were striped to back in. Levine said the westbound striping was a mistake by the contractor and has since been fixed.

Carla Jean Lauter, 33, was among those baffled that the city was changing the westbound spots into back-in-only spaces. It had appeared to many that the mistake was with the other spaces.

“Dear @cityportland whatever you are doing to ‘fix’ the backwards parking spaces on Spring St. is the opposite of correct. THEY’RE BACKWARDS,” Lauter said on the social media site Twitter, where she goes by the handle “beerbabe.”

The city began tweeting out information about the new parking arrangement Wednesday afternoon.

Other drivers parking Wednesday on Spring Street were equally confused.

“It’s seems backwards to me,” said Joe Petruzziello, who was in town for business. “I don’t get it.”


Levine pointed to two studies that show backing into angled parking is safer because it improves sight lines of drivers when exiting parking spots and eliminates the need to back into oncoming traffic.

The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, a partnership between the Federal Highway Administration and the University of North Carolina, said back-in angled parking is safer because it makes it easier for drivers to see cyclists, pedestrians and other vehicles. It also prevents drivers who have parallel-parked from opening their doors into bike lanes or oncoming traffic.

A 2005 study conducted for the University of California Davis agreed, noting that back-in angled parking also allows drivers to access their trunks from the curb, as opposed to oncoming traffic.

“I guess it makes sense if you’re forward-thinking about it, but initially it’s confusing,” Booth said.