Reader Donald Rowe noticed that motorists attempting to parallel park often wait until all the traffic behind them has passed before backing into a curbside space.
The Minneapolis resident said he has had a number of occasions of drivers “raging” at him because he doesn’t do that.
That inspires the question-and-answer format for this week’s Drive column. Rowe’s question:
Q: When parallel parking, doesn’t the vehicle trying to park have the right of way? Don’t motorists behind the parking vehicle have to wait until the lane is clear or until they can safely go around the parking car if an adjacent lane exists?
A: Drivers education instructor John Kieffer says he could not state a statute directly covering this, but generally a vehicle in a lane has right of way. Passing may only be done where and when it is safe and legal. On a two-lane road, motorists should wait for the parking vehicle to clear the driving lane before proceeding.
“This should only take a few moments, and is much safer than driving on the wrong side of the road,” he said.
Instructor Chad Mead concurred, but added that motorists attempting to parallel park should let other drivers know their intention by turning on their signal. “This lets the person behind know that they are doing something, in this case parking.”
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to see a parking spot until one comes upon it, but it’s best if drivers signal at least 100 feet in advance of their intended parking spot. Motorists following the parking car should slow down and then determine whether to stop or pass safely on the left.
The driver who is parking should be considerate of other motorists and slide into a spot as quickly as possible to avoid holding up traffic, especially on narrow city streets, Mead said.
‘No Left Turn’ signs are relics
Q: Why do some intersections still have “No Left Turn on Red Arrow” signs when turning left on a red arrow is illegal? Jim Knowlton wants to know. “This implies to me that it is then OK to turn left on a red arrow if no sign is present,” he wrote.
A: There are not many of those signs left, and the few that are will be disappearing.
A Minnesota Department of Transportation count found eight left in St. Paul. They were probably installed when the red left arrow was new and the signs were needed to educate drivers. They will be removed over time now that the red arrow is universally understood, said Josephine Tayse, who works in MnDOT’s Traffic Engineering Department.
A few places where drivers will see “ red arrow” signs include:
• northbound Cretin Avenue at the Interstate 94 interchange
• the intersection of W. 5th and 7th Streets in downtown St. Paul
• at E. 7th Street and Hwy. 52
• at 6th Street and Smith Avenue
• at Hwy. 61 and Burns Avenue.
Some of those will be coming down with signal revisions, said Brian Vitek, a St. Paul traffic engineer. But those that remain in place cause no harm.
“Before the [Green Line] light rail, we did not have a lot of protected left turns in the city,” he said. Drivers encountering a red arrow must come to a complete stop at the line before the crosswalk, or before entering the intersection. “The signs may help reinforce that,” Vitek said.