When I arrived in Atascadero in the mid-1960s, Chuck Paddock had just started his collection of animals in makeshift facilities at Atascadero Lake Park, near the ranger’s hut where he lived.
The telephone company had recently introduced the new dial equipment with the new prefix “466.” In fact, in May of ’62, at one minute after midnight, Louise Roza pulled the plug on the last call that went through the old switchboard.
El Camino Real through the center of town consisted of only two lanes, one in each direction. Motorists parked diagonally against the curb. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors awarded the funds to widen the bridge over Atascadero Creek and by the early 1970s began widening Atascadero’s main drag to four lanes. Diagonal parking was converted to parallel parking so traffic could move through the community faster.
Now, four decades later, the city is considering going back to diagonal parking along the portion of El Camino Real from the new theater complex to Rosario as a way of slowing down the traffic.
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I don’t know of anyone on the council who has made up his or her mind on the subject. But city staff, the Atascadero Main Street organization, elected officials and others are kicking around the merits of going back to diagonal parking in the center of the city.
Proponents point to the fact it would slow traffic because drivers must always be alert to cars backing out of a parking spot in front of them. There would be one less traffic lane. And there would also be more parking spaces downtown, needed as the central commercial hub of the city brings in more businesses.
Opponents, especially those who ride bikes, are concerned about being caught between the travel lane and cars that might suddenly back out in front of them. With parallel parking, wise bike riders keep a sharp lookout ahead for opening car doors.
I haven’t made up my mind yet. As I get older, I find it a little more difficult to swing my head and shoulders around enough to see if any cars are coming before I back out of a diagonal parking spot. Even then, there are blind spots between my car and the one next to me that could preclude me seeing oncoming traffic and just back right into it.
The city is going to want citizen input on this one.
I’m sure there are proponents of both systems.
They already tried speed bumps downtown to slow traffic, and those were all but eliminated, except for the one near Entrada Avenue. They are very unpopular.
And if you don’t like what happens, just wait 40 years, and they’ll switch it back again.
Lon Allan has lived in Atascadero for nearly four decades. His column appears here every week. He can be reached at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.