Culture vulture

Photo By C. Owsley Rain

What a world, what a world
Once or twice a year my friend and occasional musical colleague Danny Cohen calls up to inquire if I can pick him up at the Chico train station and give him a ride up to Paradise. As a songwriter, performer and raconteur extraordinaire, Dan is second to none, and his travels up and down the state provide the basis and inspiration for his musical tales. He is also renowned among his far-flung friends as one of the most trustworthy house- and pet-sitters on the face of the Earth. Hence the weeks-long sojourns in San Francisco and the exotic fringes of greater L.A. and the subsequent request for a ride up the hill to Paradise when the job has been completed.

And hence Culture Vulture’s occasional visits to the world’s most absurd parking area. We refer, of course, to the strip of diagonal parking slots located directly across Orange Street from the train station/Chico Art Center. Now, we have no quarrel with the concept of diagonal parking, especially on as broad a street as Orange is at that point. The thing about this particular diagonal parking area is that the stripes delineating the parking spaces are essentially backward—instead of facing toward oncoming traffic they are pointed in the same direction that a driver on that side of the street is traveling. So, in order to park, one must pull past one’s chosen parking slot and then back up to the curb which is liberally dotted with signs reading “Back-in parking only,” or some such nonsense.

The thing that kills me about this situation is that buses and trains nearly always arrive at night when visibility is not optimal even with the few streetlights in the area going full blast, and there you are maneuvering in reverse in the dark, hoping that the drivers of the cars coming up behind you will correctly interpret you turn signal as you back towards them in the gloom.

How much more dangerous would it have been to simply orient the diagonal parking in the traditional direction for face-in parking?

Were the civic-engineering geniuses who designed the parking zone thinking that if cars were forced to back in, that travelers (and art lovers) would be better protected from oncoming traffic as they unloaded or loaded their baggage from or into the trunk of the parked car? Or did they reason, perhaps based on a statistical study, that accidents occur more frequently when backing out of a parking space than backing into one? If so, I’d like to check the figures used to derive that conclusion.

Luckily, the fact that traffic is generally pretty sparse on Orange Street at train time and drivers can select parking spaces not directly adjacent to one another makes much of this complaining moot. But, if for some reason a large group of travelers or art aficionados converges on the area simultaneously, each trying to back into their own space side by side on the darkened street, be forewarned of the resulting chaos.

For such reasons I am very glad that the vast majority of my travels within Chico are done on a bicycle.