Backward ... into the future

Let's make this easy — take off your shoes. Or your slippers, sandals, sneakers, boots, Birkenstocks (for our Ashland readers) or all-purpose, arch-supported cross-trainers.

Yes ... your socks, too.

Now, place your feet flat on the floor and answer this question: Which way are your toes pointing?

For the vast majority, the answer will be "forward." If God had wanted us to move in reverse as our primary way of travel, our feet would lead us in that direction, don'tcha think?

Which is why Medford residents and visitors should take a step back while considering a concept floated by the city's Parking Commission to install diagonal parking spots along the north side of Main Street ... spaces that drivers would access by going in reverse.

"To back up — it might cause a bit of an issue," one Medford resident responded in a Mail Tribune story when asked about the idea.

"A issue" is what could be termed putting it mildly.

Another resident, who actually endorsed the idea, wasn't as mild.

"Parallel parking," she said, "sucks."

But but butbut ... it WILL be parallel parking.

On an angle.

Which, to repeat, you will have to accomplish by driving backwards.

Oh yeah ... there'll also be a bike lane.

What, no crosswalks, spike strips or Rodents Of Unusual Size in the way?

Drivers — and terrified pedestrians — have been assured that these diagonal parking spaces (remember they ARE parallel) have worked successfully in Portland, Seattle and about two-dozen other cities across the U.S. and Canada ... none of which, presumably, have an automotive demographic that was put into a Level Orange stage of alert by the installation of a roundabout.

People behind the wheel of a car were apprehensive (at best) and petrified (the rest) at the prospect of ... DRIVING ... IN ... A ... CIRCLE. And they got to do so going forward.

Now, in an attempt to alleviate an admittedly troublesome downtown parking-space deficiency, they're being told that part of the solution will be to drive in reverse at a 45-degree angle — with one foot on the gas, one on the brake and one pounding the floor in a panic — to guide their vehicles between an SUV on one side and a four-wheeled boat on the other ... both of which are parked just beyond their painted parameters of demarcation.

It's a simple marriage, you see, of timing and spacial geometry. They do this dance in Portland all the time. You press your gas pedal in. You ease your gas pedal out. You press your brake pedal in, and swivel your head all about. You do the angled parking, while you turn yourself around.

That what it's all about — creating an undetermined number of additional parking spaces while (and you have to love this terminology) "calming traffic" and making life easier for drivers, businesses and pedestrians. And don't forget the cyclists in the new bike lane.

All of which leads to the obvious question: Where on Earth are our flying cars?

This month marks the 50th anniversary of a promise made to generations of children. For a half-century now, we have been waiting for the flying cars. We had seen the future, and "The Jetsons" drove flying cars, dammit.

Flying cars would alleviate the need to park along Main Street — although how drivers would get down from the spaceport once docked is still to be worked out. Streets and sidewalks would be ... wait for it ... pedestrian-friendly.

Speaking of spaceshots, California Gov. Jerry Brown gave the go-ahead last week for technologically advanced driverless vehicles to be used on a test basis. Which is odd, as anyone who's ever been behind a vehicle with a California license plate could tell you, for it already appears that no one is driving.

One such driverless vehicle is being tested by — who else? — Google. The people who taught the world to find information without taxcing our brains are smart enough not to want those legions behind the wheel.

(No confirmation on the rumor, however, that if you press the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button on the console the Google car takes you to the home of your high school prom date.)

Driverless cars — flying or otherwise — are years away, although a Google car backing its search engine into an angled parallel parking space could take off some of the pressure. Until then, let's play this out.

Hold your hands up in front of you at the 10-2 position. You turn onto Main Street from Riverside, into the south lane of traffic. It's still a one-way street, despite the appearance of parking spaces pointing away from you.

You need to get to the north side of Main, so you put on a blinker — which blinker really depends on how much fun you want to have — then find a diagonal parking spot near the business you want to visit.

You stop, of course, calculating the amount of space you'll need to back up and turn at the proper angle to maneuver into the space. ... Wait, there's now a car behind you (closer than your mirror would make it appear) with a driver who's texting and wants to turn right onto Front Street.

They haven't realized your blinker was for the parking spot and not for the upcoming turn. And your insurance agent doesn't magically appear when you sing the jingle in an emergency.

The other driver now has to maneuver over and around you (well, hopefully not literally over you) ... watch out for the bicycles ... to get into the north lane to make their turn, while you're backing up and turning.

Turn off that dang blinker, will you? Stop this crazy thing! How can you tell if you bump into something over the sound of that clickity-clickity-clickity?

There. As your heart rate settles and your breathing slows, as no one is sprawled in the street, as no bike tires are rolling on their own through a red light, as no other driver is signalling that you're No. 1 or screaming at you fists a'flying, you are comforted by the fact that improved visibility pulling back into traffic will be simple ... as long as no one has noticed your intention to leave and has stopped, blinker blazing, ready to take your spot.

Whoever gets the permit for the lawn chair and popcorn concession on the opposing sidewalk is going to make a mint.

Diagonal (parallel) parking spots could indeed cut down on Medford's overcrowding situation — simply by scaring away so many drivers that fewer will attempt to park in them.

Folks might even get so desperate they'll start using the Evergreen garage.

Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com. You may now put on your shoes.


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