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From parallel to diagonal, parking changes approach

The conversion of one part of downtown Dixon to diagonal parking is on the way. We see potential benefits and few drawbacks.

Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Diagonal parking once was common in downtown shopping areas. Some communities have it to this day.

But as automakers built larger and longer vehicles after World War II, the space dedicated to parking began to impinge upon the space dedicated to traffic lanes, and vice versa.

What was a community to do?

Adopt parallel parking, of course.

It permitted more space for traffic lanes, though allowing for fewer parking spaces per block.

Parallel parking added a supreme challenge to driver’s education students, not to mention just about everyone else.

Downtown Dixon is home to many parallel parking spaces. That status is about to change, slightly, when one side of one block is converted to diagonal parking as part of the city’s streetscape project.

Those who still have trouble parallel parking – or who have not yet bought a new car with that high-tech automatic parallel parking feature – will want to remember this location: the south side of First Street, between Hennepin and Galena avenues.

That’s where 10 parallel parking spaces will be converted to 19 diagonal parking spaces, with one space designated for handicapped parking.

The Dixon City Council approved a $5.7 million streetscape project this week, which includes the parallel-to-diagonal-parking project.

Council members accepted the argument by merchants that customers want more parking in the downtown, which diagonal parking will create.

Mayor Jim Burke urged the council to retain the all-parallel-parking format, emphasizing the appearance factor and extra space for greenery.

Besides, Burke said, studies have shown that the downtown has plenty of parking available, if people are willing to walk a little bit farther to their destination.

The mayor has a point. Shoppers who frequent malls and big-box stores must hoof it the length of a football field or longer, at times, to reach the products they wish to buy.

But the same shoppers, apparently, have a different perspective while driving along a store-lined downtown street, looking for a parking place.

Park a block away from the store they wish to patronize? Perish the thought!

While the council listened to Burke’s viewpoints, it sided with the merchants.

We see little to worry about regarding the decision to covert a relatively small portion of the downtown to diagonal parking.

It might entice more shoppers who don’t like to parallel park or who want to park closer to their shopping destinations.

It will certainly give part of the downtown somewhat of a retro look.

And diagonal parking is cheaper to install, according to the engineers.

It remains to be seen whether Burke’s concerns materialize. Diagonal parking means narrower sidewalks, estimated to be about 5 feet wide. Passing pedestrians might find their shoulder room a bit more snug. Add a baby stroller and a couple of kids, and there might well be a few right-of-way complications.

Regardless, this diagonal parking proposal is for only one side of one block. Let the city build it and see how it works.

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