Chapter Five Parking the car

Having arrived at the destination, the visitor needs to park the car. The design of car parking has to take several factors into account.

- Cars may be left on the site for some time if visitors go off to hike a trail or do some other activity. Security of the car and its contents from theft, shade in hot weather, and the prevention of accidental damage from other car park users, ensure that the car will be protected until the occupants return. If people feel that their car is safe they will enjoy their experience more.

- Once the more relaxed landscape of the site has been reached, and the attractions of the facility start to divert attention, then car speed and disorientation should be reduced by laying out the car park with simple, easy-to-follow routes.

- Equipment such as bikes, boats, sailboards or other large objects often have to be unloaded. Space is needed around the car in order to get things out of the back or side doors, or off roof-racks, and put onto the ground nearby out of the way of other cars.

- People on the site are likely to be more relaxed, wander around more and be less vigilant, so that there may be some risk of accidents: from reversing vehicles, for example. Small children and pets may be particularly at risk.

- Sites may be used all the year round. Snow and ice, hot dry summers, rainy periods or other extreme climatic conditions may have to be accommodated in the use of materials, their durability and maintenance and the layout of the area with respect to drainage, snow clearance operations, dust and glare.

- The character of the landscape and the concept of contrast with the urban scene will determine how far the layout of the car parking will blend into its surroundings and reinforce the sense of difference. The Recreation Opportunity Spectrum or other planning tool should already have determined this.

How many spaces?

The first design consideration concerns the number of spaces and the types of vehicle required to be accommodated, as this may dictate to a large extent the type of layout to be adopted in the space available.

Accurate calculation of the number of car spaces required for a new facility is not possible, as the pattern and level of use will vary from one site to another. However, it is worth comparing figures for other similar sites and locations to obtain an idea of the right order of provision. Seasonal and weekly fluctuations in use also need to be assessed and some judgement made as to whether to cater for the busiest periods or average demand. On many sites there may be peak usage on certain public holidays that is significantly higher than the rest of the year. It is unlikely to be economic to cater for this demand, and so the provision of overflow parking may be a better option.

A formula has also been used to calculate the expected number of car spaces. It provides a rough guide in the absence of other information, but depends on the assumptions used to provide the initial figures:

where ^=number of spaces required, v=number of day visits, p=average number of people per car, s=average length of stay, and h=average daily period for which the site will be in use.

The parking requirement may be complicated by other factors. In many areas coaches may be used to bring visitors to a particular beauty spot. In others, trailers for boats, kayaks, horses or trailer caravans may need to be accommodated. Such large or unwieldy vehicles have less flexible requirements for turning or manoeuvring, and take up more space per unit.

(a) A simple layout where a side loop is made from the access road. Bays to accommodate varying numbers of cars are made along either side of the loop. (b) A loop that can operate on a one-way system from a main access or public road. The circular shape would be varied in practice to take account of local terrain, trees, rocks etc. (c) This version contains several sub-loops accommodating many more cars, and is suitable for busier sites. It should operate on a one-way system, and can be laid outfor either left-hand or right-hand driving sides.

(a) A simple layout where a side loop is made from the access road. Bays to accommodate varying numbers of cars are made along either side of the loop. (b) A loop that can operate on a one-way system from a main access or public road. The circular shape would be varied in practice to take account of local terrain, trees, rocks etc. (c) This version contains several sub-loops accommodating many more cars, and is suitable for busier sites. It should operate on a one-way system, and can be laid outfor either left-hand or right-hand driving sides.

Types of layout

The type of layout will also depend on the space, the terrain limitations and the budget available. Generally the layout should respond to the terrain and the shape of the landform. This will help to ensure that the least impact is caused by cut and fill; that the landform can be used to create irregular, naturalistic layout shapes and to help screen vehicles from external views; and to ensure that easy grades and good drainage can be achieved. To make the best use of awkward terrain, more travelling surface may be needed per parking bay. This may increase the overall cost but may make maintenance easier.

A linear layout to avoid is one where the road is positioned on the main attraction or view with an avenue of cars on either side. This puts the cars before the view and is very intrusive.

In forested areas it is frequently ideal to disperse the parking amongst the trees. In this way the ambience and character can be maintained, shade can be provided during hot weather, snow can be intercepted during the winter, and the impact of the whole can 'lie lightly on the land'. Damage to tree rooting can be avoided by careful construction and the use of porous surfacing materials.

Vehicular circulation can be one-way or two-way. One-way traffic is generally easier to control and safer for all concerned. The following examples of different layout plans are suitable for a variety of circumstances. The precise setting out needs to be adjusted on the ground to accommodate local landform variation or the precise position of trees, as detailed site surveys may not be carried out in many circumstances.

Loop layout

This is usually a one-way system, but may be two-way if need be. The simplest layout consists of a loop road along which are spaced bays capable of holding between three and seven cars. These may be all on the one side of the circuit (either exterior or interior) or on both the exterior and the interior sides. In the latter case they should normally be staggered. Multiple loops may be used in various combinations, depending on the site and the capacity. Such car parks tend to fill up from those areas nearest the main focus of the site, so the layout should allow for short alternative loops so that cars do not have to go right round again if part of the parking area is full. The advantages of this type of layout include the ease with which it can be extended, either by enlarging parking bays or adding extra loops. It is often a good idea to plan for additional parking from the outset, so that if demand increases quickly, enlargements can be made quite easily without a major redesign.

The loop layout is especially suited to fairly flat forested landscapes, where the road can wind its way amongst the trees and bays can be tucked in between them. It does require a significant amount of room, although quite dense layouts are possible in more open landscapes.

Loop layouts are also good when passengers need to be dropped off from coaches. A drop-off zone can be provided near the focus of the site, and the coach can then be driven to a special parking area away from most of the cars. This prevents coaches from dominating the site or becoming a safety hazard. Equally, where boats or other large equipment need to be delivered they too can be located in a special storage area on the access section before the empty vehicle moves on into the car park. One requirement is that longer vehicles or those with trailers need larger bays, which must be clearly identified: pull-through parking is not so easy to accommodate with this layout.

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(a) This linear layout is suited to terraces or side slopes, where it is aligned along the contour. A turning loop is provided. The layout must operate a two-way traffic system. (b) This version has greater capacity, with small loops giving greater bay numbers and the use of the turning loop for parking.

Linear car park

Linear car parks are often better suited for restricted terrain, for example along a river bank terrace, on a ridge top or along a lake shore. A two-way access road has parking bays along it on one or both sides, with a turning area at the far end. This layout is suited to places where good views can be had from each parking bay, where a long frontage is attractive and helps to spread people out for activities such as fishing or boating. Landform, such as a natural terrace, can help to fit the car park into the landscape and reduce its impact. A second variation of this type is to provide small side-loops off the main spine road. This makes turning easier, particularly for trailer-towing vehicles. Oneway linear layouts can be designed with a separate exit road back to the entrance, in effect using the public highway to close the circuit.

Area car park

This is the more common urban type of layout, where an area is surfaced and divided into sections for parking or manoeuvring, perhaps subdivided with patches of trees or shrubs or surface markings. This type is the most compact, and uses least ground. It is suitable for smaller sites or where intensive developments such as a visitor centre have a high turnover of large numbers of visitors. It is also easily maintained when, for example, snow has to be cleared, except that large amounts of snow have to be disposed of somewhere. Security is easier with this type, as more cars are visible and more people are generally around. Hence it might be very appropriate in some urban fringe situations. This layout also enables pull-through spaces to be incorporated more easily for vehicles towing trailers. This avoids reversing, with its attendant problems and danger to pedestrians. The shape of this type of car park can be made less geometric and urban by creating irregular, more naturalistic outlines, and the impact of its size can be reduced by breaking it up into smaller subsections, with vegetation and/or earth mounds.

These basic car park layouts can all be multiplied, extended and modified to suit the design requirements. When planning the layout it is a good idea to think of how the car driver will use it, what circulation problems may arise, and how the layout relates to the siting of all the other requirements such as toilet blocks or trail entrances, as well as respecting the character of the site.

Parking design

Once the planning aspects relating to site layout, vehicular circulation and management of the expected vehicle types have been dealt with, then the car park designer will fit the layout to the landscape and decide on the appropriate use of materials, vehicle barriers and direction signs.

Parking Spaces

In the loop and linear layouts, where parking bays adjoin the sides of the road, the best arrangement is to make bays that can accommodate anything from three to seven vehicles parked at right angles. Because of the importance of the setting in the more natural landscapes, and the need for more space around each vehicle, it is better to give a generous space allowance per car.

The following design assumptions should be made for each car parking space: Parking spaces at right angles to the road are more economical of area, although spaces

(a) An area car park where the scale of parking is partly broken up by small indentations, perhaps of trees. It is a very cost-effective and denser parking layout. (b) The basic layout can be extended. (c) Instead of two separate arms the two are linked with a space divider to break up the mass of cars and allow for level changes. (d) This layout allows for a number of pull-through spaces, which permit trailer-towing vehicles to park without reversing. This version is set out for left-hand drive countries. The reverse would be used in Britain or Australia.

(a) An area car park where the scale of parking is partly broken up by small indentations, perhaps of trees. It is a very cost-effective and denser parking layout. (b) The basic layout can be extended. (c) Instead of two separate arms the two are linked with a space divider to break up the mass of cars and allow for level changes. (d) This layout allows for a number of pull-through spaces, which permit trailer-towing vehicles to park without reversing. This version is set out for left-hand drive countries. The reverse would be used in Britain or Australia.

set parallel may be used in certain circumstances. Either type is acceptable for one-way or two-way traffic. In one-way circulation patterns, parking in echelon to the road is also possible. This is also economical of area, and prevents cars from inadvertently driving the wrong way around a one-way loop.

The parking spaces are set within bays whose outline needs to be designed to blend into the road shape and features of the landscape. A curving design works well with flared outer edges running smoothly into the road edge. This reduces the regularity of the geometry, creating instead a series of flowing lines and shapes, which can be fitted into those of local landform and amongst trees. This shape is also useful for construction and maintenance purposes, especially where unpaved or gravel surfacing is used, which needs occasional regrading or rolling.

This area layout at Mount St Helens, Washington, USA, uses a natural bench in the landform to accommodate the parking. Small islands help to break up the parking and establish the vehicle circulation. Pull-through bays are provided.

Space

Length Width Road width

Vehicle (m) (ft) (m) (ft) (m) (ft)

Car

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