Paw Paw residents divided whether back-in parking is ‘as easy as 1, 2, 3′

PAW PAW, Mich. – Signs posted along Michigan Avenue read, “Back-in angle parking, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3,” but according to long-time Paw Paw resident Keith Harring, it’s not.

FOX 17 rode along with Harring as he tried to park in a newly painted back-in angled parking spot. Harring said stopping on Michigan Avenue, even with your blinker on, causes congestion, and drivers directly behind the vehicle stop too close.

“See the problem it causes? He’s too close, and this lady’s going around me,” said Harring.

An avid cyclist, Harring said he will not ride his bike along Michigan Avenue.

“I ride a lot of bikes, and I won’t ride out there. It’s unsafe. Right by those cars? I won’t ride out there.”

Only one week into the testing period for the parking design which the village officials said will end late winter 2015, and the community is divided.

“That is the stupidest road I’ve ever seen,” said John Fouth, Paw Paw resident. “I’ve traveled this country, all 48 states, Canada, Mexico, and I have never seen a fiasco like what you’ve got going on downtown. Strictly stupid, dumb, period.”

Although this parking design was not on Monday’s bimonthly village council meeting agenda, 11 of 15 residents who addressed the council about the parking were opposed.

“Everybody’s avoiding downtown now,’ said Paw Paw resident Cliff Overacker. “They’re coming through our neighborhoods at 100 miles per hour instead of going where they’re supposed to.”

The majority of residents who spoke expressed concerns about traffic congestion that motivates drivers to avoid downtown streets and shops,  plus the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety.

“I’d like to believe that this is going to be safer for the kids,” said Chris Runkle, Paw Paw resident, “but we’ve all already been a witness to one biker nearly run over by a semi Saturday afternoon.”

Yet several cyclists said they’re in favor of Paw Paw working to become a “walking town.”

“It’s great to see a progressive town like Paw Paw looking to make safer pathways for the bicyclists,” said Cindy Vanskike, Paw Paw resident.

In response to a steady flow of concerned residents, the village council said they are looking into the timing of lights and into adding more red arrows. They called the parking design a continuous project.

“It’s very important that we be progressive, because things are changing all across the country and this area, and we want this town to be very successful,” said Roman Plaszczak, village president.

Other residents, such as retired school bus driver Charles Craddock, question how major traffic will navigate through possibly more congestion after Michigan Avenue’s traffic lanes have been cut from four down to two.

“When we’re coming into school we’ll have 50- to 60-plus kids on a bus, and if it’s going to take you two or three times to get through the main corridor, those kids are going to be perhaps late getting to school,” said Craddock. “A lot of these kids depend on their morning breakfasts.”

The back-in angled parking in question by many residents is a key part of the 2009-2010 Master Plan to revitalize downtown Paw Paw.

Village Manager Larry Nielsen told FOX 17 that by decreasing Michigan Avenue traffic lanes down to two, then adding a bicycle lane and angled parking, officials hope to draw more people to the area and safely, to make the village “a place where people drive to rather than drive through.” Nielsen also said that they based this parking off of many cities across Michigan–like Sturgis and Coldwater–that have successfully implemented back-in angled parking.

“When people are pulling out they’re able to see any bicyclists and oncoming traffic, rather than backing into a bicycle lane and a through lane without any visibility,” said Nielsen.

Nielsen told FOX 17 that this back-in angled parking cost the village an estimated $50,000, which is funded through the village roads funds. Nielsen said the money from the village roads funds comes partly from money from the gas tax.

Paw Paw Fire Chief Jim DeGroff said the community needs to be patient. Since this parking has been implemented in the last week, DeGroff told FOX 17, the fire department has had no problems.

12 comments

  • George

    Hey…lets put a bike path in the middle of the road and call it “progress”…
    I’m assuming that since there is a designated lane for bicycles, bike riders will now be required to pay taxes like auto drivers ?
    Will cyclists be held to the same traffic laws ? and be ticketed just like auto drives when they blow a light or run a stop ?

  • Heather

    I’ve only seen one cyclist ride on the new people bike path and they almost got hit. Any other cyclists I’ve seen are still riding in the sidewalks.

  • Luanne Austin

    Question: if I’m coming into Paw Paw from the west and want to turn right at Gremps Street/Sugar Bear corner and there is no bikes coming in the bike lane, can I turn right from bike lane on a red light??? Or do I have to stay in the only east bound lane and wait my turn to turn right? I haven’t seen any bikes using those UGLY purple bike lanes. Someone needs to do a bike count for a week! Just hope no one gets hurt when the traffic is super heavy. Thanks

  • Sandy

    And during the winter time when it’s cold/snowing out and there are NO bike riders out there at all…will the cars be able to use those bike lanes to turn right??

  • Christina

    Would be curious to know the gains or losses of each store downtown for the past few weeks. How are they being effected with this change into parking?? Seems like the village would at least waited to see how walmart caused any changes as it is before adding another obstacle for the downtown stores to deal with. Can you imagine how bad this set up will be during wine & harvest fest ,all that traffic using 2 lanes when it was already bad enough with 4 ..

  • Joe

    Today, I had to wait for two lights to get through the light at Kalamazoo street as cars were backed up from Gremps in the one remaining lane. This has never happened before (unless I-94 was closed). Going through town on Michigan simply is not worth it. Without any right turn lanes, the best route eastbound is to cut through Amore’s parking lot. Westbound looks like Oak or Elm Street. If we must now be “progressive”, how about putting in a bypass?

  • Sandi

    It is clear to me that the people are speaking; at least 95% think this is stupid and I think that is enough to change it back and maybe those that made the decisions in the first place, can cough up the $50,000 it costs Paw Paw.

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