Parking Lot Design
Faulty Designs by the "Experts"
My father, in his bachelor days, operated streetcars in San Francisco. He and his passengers knew well the ins and outs of the system, its assets and its faults.
He was, therefore, more than incensed to learn that "Muni" had called in "experts" from New York to address problems. New Yorkers who did not live in or have a history with San Francisco, its quirks, demands, and needs, both topographical and demographic. What the heck did they know about the needs of San Francisco's mass transit system? He would say,
"Ask the people who drive and ride the buses, streetcars, trolleys and cable cars. Those are your experts!"
I see the same exact problem with parking lots. The "experts" take into account only aesthetics; minimum requirements, turning radii, emergency access and the like; they completely forget the customers who will be using the facility or facilities served by said lot. They also forget, most of the time, to account for local demographics, holding only to the "legal minimums."
Architects design buildings in their offices, alone or with their own team. Parking lot design, on the other hand, should have public input.
The majority of parking lots are landscaped for aesthetic appeal. That's fine. Nothing is quite so ugly as acres of paved-over ground. That said, common sense needs to be applied as to the location of said landscaping.
How many times have you parked in a spot that was right next to a "beautifully landscaped" median in the lot, and nearly tripped over the curb or fallen into those oh-so-lovely bushes?
Landscaping should never, ever be placed up against a parking stall. It is a tripping hazard for both drivers and their passengers, whichever side of the vehicle ends up against such a median.
It is especially dangerous when placed next to handicapped-access parking stalls. It is hard enough to maneuver out of a vehicle next to these obstacles when able-bodied. Now imagine the difficulty for someone using crutches, a walker, a cane, or simply a bit unsteady on their feet.
Some users of wheelchairs might have it a bit easier, if they have an assistant to get their chair for them, or a motorized lift, but not all are so fortunate. I know at least one person who is confined to a wheelchair, and still manages to drive alone, and get his chair in and out of his car without help. Landing in a parking spot against bushes or other plantings would not be a good thing. Obviously he would try for a different parking spot, and, not having to walk, technically could park a bit farther out. But that is not the point.
The standard parking spot for full-sized cars, (as I've shown in my diagram, below), is 9 feet wide by 18 feet long. Handicapped-access spots are a bit wider, with room to maneuver lift devices, or walkers and wheelchairs. Hence, there is usually a 2 foot buffer of cross-hatched paint, indicating a 'no parking' area immediately next to the handicapped stall.
However, I have come across horrible designs, where the disabled-access spots are crowded up against those bushes and plantings. It would behoove designers of parking lots to remember that not all disabled persons are the passengers; many are still able to drive, and trying to exit the vehicle into plantings is very dangerous for them
A Parking Spot Too Far
In other places, the fault is not landscaping between the stalls, but the placement of plantings right up against the building, which pushes the distance of the handicapped-access spots much further from the door than they should be.
One horrible example of this is at our local Kaiser. This is a medical office and hospital, for pity sakes; the architects should have have a few more brain cells in use, and not placed the "beautification" next to the buildings, but on the outer edges, or only between the two buildings, (out of photo to the right) where there is no room for parking. (There is landscaping in that area; but they should have left it at that!)
Behind the white car, there is the regular medical office building; the handicapped spaces are perfectly positioned for that facility, but much too far away from the larger, hospital and medical office building.
I've taken photos to prove my point:
A Better Plan
How much better it would be, if those lovely landscaping plants were rearranged, and instead of being in between any individual parking stalls, were instead placed between the rows of stalls, as shown in my illustration, below.
How Parking Spaces and Landscaping Should be Designed
Moving, Not Losing
By shifting the plantings as shown in my drawing above, no spaces would be lost; they are merely re-arranged. In fact, because planting islands are 'lost' between parking spaces, more spots would actually be gained.
Additionally, parking under trees, while it may seem like a good idea on hot days, is not the best option, for trees can drip sap onto your car, and that is bad for the paint. Sap is difficult to remove without damage to the finish, especially if it has been allowed to sit and accumulate for days or weeks.
I suggest, therefore, that if you see a new shopping or office complex about to be built in your area, that you contact your local city officials, and request a public hearing on the parking design. In fact, it is best to stay in touch with the council agenda, so you will know in a timely fashion when such projects come up for discussion. Then you can have your input before it is too late.
I hope you have found this article useful, and the ideas valid.
All photos by Liz Elias © 3-6-14
© 2014 Liz Elias
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