Dr. Traffic

Charlotte frowns on wrong-way parallel parking

A picture from the Observer’s photo archive suggests parking with the driver’s side to the curb was prohibited as far back as 1995. The caption on file says “an illegally parked Blazer (right) sits along College Avenue.”
A picture from the Observer’s photo archive suggests parking with the driver’s side to the curb was prohibited as far back as 1995. The caption on file says “an illegally parked Blazer (right) sits along College Avenue.”

Some things are bound to change as a city grows. Where the rules might have been relaxed at one time, enforcers have to pay more attention when congestion sets in.

That was my thought when a reader complained about cars parked on the wrong side of the street in Waxhaw.

“People in our neighborhood routinely park on the wrong side of the street,” Carla Bergmeier wrote. “By this I mean they are parking with the driver's side to the curb. Now I know when you are driving on a one-way street, you can pull in to the left and parallel park, but is it legal to park on the left on 2-way residential streets?”

It depends where you live.

There was a time when you could get away with this in Charlotte. I can remember pulling over in the NoDa neighborhood near North Davidson Street years ago and finding every third or fourth car parked “improperly.” You could see the same in Dilworth, near the lake at Freedom Park and in many other neighborhoods.

This made it easy to quickly nab a spot in a popular neighborhood where spaces were snapped up fast, depending on the time of day you visited. By pulling over from right to left, you saved time because you didn’t need to turn. (It felt odd, though, to get out of the driver’s side and find yourself standing at the curb.)

Well, Charlotte’s roads became more congested, and all that has changed. A picture in the Observer’s photo archive suggests parking with the driver’s side to the curb was a no-no in 1995.

The city of Charlotte approved a sweeping update to municipal codes in 2004. That included new wording in the city’s parking ordinance, according to Linda Durrett, a spokeswoman for Charlotte Department of Transportation.

The ordinance says you can’t “stop, stand, or park a vehicle on a street other than parallel with the edge of the roadway, headed in the direction of traffic, and with the curbside wheels of the vehicle within 12 inches of the edge of the roadway, unless authorized to do otherwise by appropriate signs.”

The rule for drivers across the state is spelled out in the “North Carolina Driver’s Handbook”: “Always park on the right side of the road, except on one-way streets.”

But some jurisdictions could have different rules. That’s because the state gives municipalities authority to regulate parking. In Waxhaw, you’re not parked legally if the driver’s side is at the curb, according to the town’s traffic code. The town’s fine for improper parking is $10, compared to $25 in Charlotte.

Maybe it’s for the best. With so many cars on the road, I’m not sure I’d still be comfortable pulling away from the left side of the road anyway. Your vision is somewhat compromised from that position, and traffic is coming at you head-on. Let’s just say we had our fun, and it was nice while it lasted.

Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms

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