St. Albert is not the first city in the region to introduce angle parking to its downtown, and likely not the last.
The City of Leduc changed to angle parking in its downtown sometime in the early 1990s. Business owners and city officials seem pleased with the concept.
“I have never seen an accident on our street with people parking, so that would say to me that it’s fairly safe,” said Debbie Charanduk, chair of the Leduc Downtown Progressive Association.
Charanduk, who is also the owner of a downtown business, Black Gold Gallery & Frame, said the city introduced the changes to slow down traffic and make room for more cars to park.
She added that many people don’t like parallel parking. But angle parking also adds to the character of the downtown.
“It just has more of a feel of a small town and that kind of fits the character of a downtown centre more than the parallel parking, which is a little more urban,” she said.
St. Albert is getting ready to introduce angle parking along Perron Street in the coming days. The street will be reduced to a single driving lane in each direction and the speed limit taken down to 40 kilometres an hour from the current 50.
These changes will create 29 additional parking spaces and city planners hope to make downtown safer and more appealing for pedestrians.
Since Leduc made its switch the angle parking, the only issues that remain are people pulling U-turns to park on the opposite site of the street, or backing out all the way across the street to go in the opposite direction, Charanduk said.
But the awareness of laws and regulations comes with time, and requires some enforcement, said Beverly Beckett, Leduc council member and past chair of the downtown progressive association.
The speed limit in downtown Leduc is 30 kilometres per hour.
“If you leave your speed limit at 50 then you run the risk of getting accidents,” Beckett said. “But at this speed limit there is enough time for someone to back out and other people to see them.”
Beckett said Leduc introduced angle parking for much of the same reasons that St. Albert is testing it now. They needed more parking, and people to come downtown.
While the angle parking initiative gave them at least two more stalls per block, it also opened the door to higher customer satisfaction, she said.
People like to park in front of the store they’re heading to, she said. They’re also more likely to stop and walk around.
“It increased the number of downtown shoppers and visitors and, of course, the businesses embrace that,” she said.
People generally seem to embrace the idea of angle parking as it makes parking a lot easier than perpendicular stalls or parallel stalls, said Rick Lang of the Alberta Motor Association.
When backing out of an angle parking stall, drivers should go slowly and watch for oncoming cars, he said.
“You obviously want to back out slow and controlled and go straight back until you can see over or around or through the vehicle to your right,” he said. “Watch for pedestrians and not to hit the vehicle on your left.”
When parking, drivers should try to park beside a smaller vehicle. This makes it easier to see the road when backing out again, he said.
If cars are parked next to a larger truck or car, a passenger could help them get out, or they just need to “creep out slowly,” he said.
But angle parking spaces rarely cause accidents, he said. The most dangerous place to park your car is at a shopping centre parkade, he said.
“The main reason is door dings. People have shopping carts roll through and hit the side of their vehicle. People also think they have the right away,” he said. “Number one (for accidents) is always rear-end collisions, number two is being run off the road.”
St. Albert will launch its angle parking pilot project this weekend (weather permitting). The project’s success will be assessed after one year.
Another city pilot project launched this summer allows businesses to create pop-up patios for the summer.
Patios may include space for eating and drinking, seating and standing room, and additional retail space. Most of the patio sits on the street, taking up about two angle parking stalls, while sidewalks must remain free.
While this takes away some of the new parking spaces created by the city, the patios are expected to bring more people downtown, said Joan Barber, of the economic development branch.
“You have more areas for people to sit, more areas for people to slow down and relax,” she said. “So it tends to increase the number of people in the downtown and it increases the number of hours they are spending in your downtown.”
The pop-up patio program runs from May 17 until Oct. 14.