Kathy Morris attempts to park in the new reverse-angle spaces last week; she promises she’ll soon master the task. The concept was championed by trauma nurse Linda Richter, below. (Photos by John T. Ward)
By JOHN T. WARD
Wait: a what?
Angled parking spaces, popular decades ago throughout American downtowns, appear to be making a return, but this time with a twist: motorists must back into them, rather than park nose-in.
Last week, Sea Bright became the first town in Monmouth County to give back-in, or reverse-angle, parking a try with the creation of eight curbside spaces in front of the Ocean Avenue supermarket.
And there are plans to implement the concept gradually throughout the borough, said Linda Richter, a borough resident and trauma nurse who spearheaded the change as a safety measure both for motorists and pedestrians.
“It’s statistically proven to be safer,” Richter told redbankgreen. “And it’s very easy to do – much easier than parallel parking.”
Reverse-angle parking is one of several changes that emerged from Sea Bright 2020, an effort organized by Mayor Dina Long in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to find community consensus on the town’s future. Richter said she volunteered to research traffic safety improvements because of the human toll of accidents she’s witness as a nurse.
“I took care of a two-year-old who got run over by the grandmother,” said Richter, who works at a hospital in Morristown. “Unfortunately, it happens every day.”
The borough council was on board with giving the concept a try, and identified the supermarket location as a good place to start. In addition to having enough curb length for eight vehicles, there’s a parking lot that motorists can opt for if they’re uncomfortable backing in. The store owner was consulted as a courtesy, and he was “amenable” to the change, Ricthter said.
When a police car is not in use, Chief John Sorrentino has it parked in one of the spaces to indicate to the uninitiated how cars should be aligned, she said.
The concept has raised concerns elsewhere. In Venice, Florida, officials worried that an elderly population in a city with lots of crosswalks wouldn’t be a good mix. And business owners in Victor, Idaho complained that it was both less safe than parallel parking and was driving away customers.
Sonny Webb, an area resident who pulled into one of the Sea Bright spaces nose-first before noticing the signs for reverse-angle parking, tells redbankgreen he’s “not so sure it makes lot of sense.”
While locals may quickly adapt to it, “my concern would be someone coming up behind you” and not realizing you’re about to put your vehicle in reverse, he said.
But Richter said studies have found the method safer. That’s why, she said, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over Ocean Avenue because it’s a state highway, hopes to implement it more widely in Sea Bright.
First, though, it will be rolled out in limited areas, including the Anchorage Beach parking lot, she said.
“It’s a change of mindset,” she said.”We have to take baby steps.”
Morris, meanwhile, was undaunted by her inability to park her SUV without trespassing into an adjoining space.
“I’ll practice, and I’ll get as good as I did when I used to throw the quarter into the bin on the Parkway,” she told redbankgreen. “I’m going to master it.”