For Joe Propst II and some other Decatur residents, reverse parking on residential streets has not been a big deal — until recently.
Since March, Decatur police officers have issued a dozen citations for parked vehicles facing oncoming traffic in neighborhoods across the city.
Propst, who lives on Sherman Street Southeast in the Albany District, said one of his house painters received a citation a couple of weeks ago for reverse parking. Propst, an attorney, said he plans to fight the ticket in court in July.
“The house was built in 1939, and I’ve been living there since 1981,” Propst said. “I don’t ever recall a citation given for reverse parking. There are no signs at all indicating reverse parking is not allowed. … Many houses on Sherman Street don’t have driveways. To park the other direction, many will have to drive around the block or do a dangerous U-turn in the street.
“We want peaceful enjoyment of our neighborhood and be able to park in front of our house in either direction.”
According to police spokeswoman Emily Long, “The city ordinance prevents vehicles from parking in the direction of oncoming traffic for the safety of drivers. Drivers who reverse park have to pull into oncoming lanes to park their vehicles and must, again, travel into oncoming traffic to leave the spot.”
In March and May, Decatur police issued five reverse parking citations for each month. In April, two were given out, according to Long. She said the city magistrate’s office did not have the running total for June.
Long added the fine is $25 per reverse parking violation.
Propst suggested Decatur police issue warning tickets for the first offense.
“We realize the Police Department is doing their job, but if they’re going to start giving citations, they ought to issue a warning the first time,” he said. “I think we’ve been blindsided by this action.”
Frank Rowden, 66, lives a couple blocks to the west on Sherman.
He said a couple of weeks ago, some people on the Sherman Street neighborhood chat group on social media mentioned citations being issued for reverse parking in the neighborhood.
“The only place I am aware of reverse parking being an issue is at the downtown businesses,” said Rowden, a retired Decatur native. “The streets aren’t as wide and can be very busy at times, and I see that as a safety issue. It could be dangerous. There are signs saying no reverse parking. It may have changed some people’s behavior. It’s been in the back of my mind. It was the first time in my 35 years living on this street that anyone I know of was ticketed for reverse parking.”
On Thursday morning, Rowden had two vehicles parked in front of his house in violation of the ordinance.
“I don’t feel reverse parking or making a U-turn is dangerous on low-traffic residential streets,” Rowden said. “We’re fortunate to have wide streets in this neighborhood. If I’m going in a different direction, I just do a U-turn or I might pull in a neighbor’s driveway.”
A survey of Sherman and Jackson streets Southeast Thursday morning, found 19 vehicles reverse parked, 11 on Jackson Street.
“It’s simply a matter of convenience for me,” Rowden said. “I’ll make a better effort.”
Mayor Tab Bowling said citizens make him aware of parking issues on a regular basis.
“Our officers don’t go out on a daily basis looking for reverse parking,” Bowling said. “If the department receives a complaint, we have to answer that complaint, whether it be a complaint of reverse parking, running stop signs, whatever. … If the officers are out and they see violations, it’s their job to enforce the law. The city doesn’t profit from or get any joy from issuing the citations.”
In front of District 5 Councilman Chuck Ard’s house Thursday morning in Southwest Decatur, a couple of workers’ vehicles were reverse parked. Ard said he was unaware of the position of their vehicles, but supports the ordinance.
“I don’t reverse park,” Ard said. “I will talk to the fellows about parking in the right direction. … The ordinance is on the books, and we’ve been making an effort to enforce the laws. The ordinance makes sense. It’s a safety issue.”
City Council President Paige Bibbee said the ordinance helps protect residents, and the city has a responsibility to make more citizens aware of the law.
She said she favors city officials meeting with neighborhood leaders, especially those in historic districts, to get their input about it.
“I see (reverse parking) as a safety hazard. And honestly, I’ve done it myself. We don’t want accidents,” she said. “I can see people not favoring a (no reverse parking) sign in their front yard. It’s unfair to visitors, too. They won’t know it’s a law.”
Decatur Utilities and Cook's Pest Control spokesmen said their companies have policies urging their employees to stay in step with traffic ordinances.
"By policy, DU personnel are to abide by all city of Decatur traffic laws — including prohibition of reverse parking," DU's Joe Holmes said. "In certain instances, temporary reverse parking may be necessary to complete utility work in certain areas. All DU vehicles are marked with orange cones in front and rear when parked."
Cook's Jay Isom said, "All employees are instructed to obey the law and follow the rules of the road. Situations like this remind us that it is time to revisit specific rules and regulations. We will be reminding employees of the proper way to park their vehicles.”
Bowling said usually after a citation is received, he often hears from the recipient.
“Tickets for two-hour parking is the most common,” the mayor said. “Enforcement of parking violations changes habits.”