LACONIA — Do you like backing your car into a parking spot? If so, downtown Laconia will soon be the place to be.
City councilors have decided to create 32 new parking spaces by establishing back-in angle parking to replace parallel parking on Beacon Street East and West.
Here’s how it works — you signal right, go slightly past the parking spot and reverse to park.
On Monday, councilors called this type of parking “avant-garde.”
State Rep. Charlie St. Clair, who owns the downtown Antique Center and is a former Boston taxi cab driver, calls it a good way to back up traffic.
“I’m not in favor of the plan,” he said Tuesday. “Leave it the way it is now.”
Travel lanes will be reduced from two to one, meaning there will be no way to go around a car backing into a spot, he said. Also, if the trailing car is following too close, it will be impossible for the lead car to back up at all.
St. Clair said he hopes the plan will work out but fears it won’t and the new spots will have to be re-striped. He even had some advice for the Public Works Department.
“Keep your paint brushes handy,” he said.
Advocates of back-in angle parking say its big advantage comes when it is time to leave. The motorist merely drives forward and merges into traffic, which is easier than having to back up a car into traffic as is required with traditional angle parking.
Councilors say there is a need for new spots, particularly those that permit all-day parking.
The plan also calls for two sets of curb “bump-outs,” or extension of sidewalks into the street, to reduce crossing distances for pedestrians. The bump-outs cost $33,000 a set. They won’t be built immediately. Instead, there will be a trial period when marks will be placed in the road showing where the bump-outs will eventually go.
Public Works Director Wes Anderson acknowledged that drivers will initially have a learning curve.
“We will put out a lot of information, so drivers will start expecting it,” he said. “We will put up some temporary signs letting people know the traffic pattern will be changing.
He said back-in angle parking has been gaining prominence and articles about it have appeared in various professional publications.
Many cars now have back-up cameras, which should be helpful in maneuvering through the process, he said.
About five years ago, officials in Bristol set up and then removed back-in spaces amid complaints and confusion.
An article in the Laconia Daily Sun at the time quoted two downtown Bristol business people who didn’t care for back-in parking.
"People haven't gotten used to it,” said Shawn Economides, the branch manager of North Country Mortgage. “They're denting their cars and bending the signs they hit when trying to back into the parking spaces.”
Aletha Lewis of Tin Shoppe Antiques said, "People sit in the road and look around and finally drive off. If they can park elsewhere, they will, but they won't park or are very nervous about trying to park in front of the store. Someone is always hitting the handicapped sign."
The downtown Bristol business owners also reported near collisions as well as people blowing their horns and shouting obscenities.