Some of the area's most awkward parking spaces are also among its safest.

Touted for their relative safety but a source of confusion for many drivers, reverse-angle parking spaces are slowly spreading across the Milwaukee area. What’s so great about these spots you back into after driving past (see diagram)? For one, they’re easier to pull out of safely, with the flow of traffic, than with any other configurations, be it parallel, perpendicular or pull-in angle spots, which require the driver to back up into oncoming traffic. Reverse angle spots also reduce the risk of hitting a bicyclist with your car door.

A host of U.S. cities have added reverse-angle parking, including New York, Portland and Salt Lake City. Milwaukee first added the spaces in the early 1980s, according to the Department of Public Works, and now they can be found in the Third Ward, Menomonee Valley and Walker’s Point. Most recently, the city added them to Mount Vernon Avenue near City Lights Brewing Co., and when Wauwatosa recently redid some of its bike lanes in the Village area, it added some reverse angle spots right along with them.

“There’s no question that they’re safer,” says Jim Plaisted, executive director of the Wauwatosa Village Business Improvement District. “The leap has been for the public to understand the parking maneuver.”

Wauwatosa’s assistant city engineer Mike Steiner says drivers are getting used to the new spots, with 80 to 90 percent backing in and out properly, but there’s still confusion at times: “There are some people who are new to the area, so we’ve gotten some calls wondering what we are doing.” ◆

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Reverse-angle parking in the city of Milwaukee

  • 2300 block of North Commerce Street
  • 200 block North 21st Street
  • 200 and 300 blocks of South 36th Street
  • 3600-3800 blocks of West Milwaukee Road
  • 2300 West Mount Vernon Avenue
  • 300 Block of South Third Street
  • 100 Block of East Seeboth Street

‘Back It Up’ appears in the August 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning July 31, or buy a copy at

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