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Great Idea: Master parallel parking and improve your life (bear with me here)

I lived in Calgary’s Beltline for four months in 2014 and it was a crash* course in parallel parking.

My move from Sunalta to Beltline came about when my best pal needed a roommate (after her old one got hitched), but only for the summer before she moved across the country for a Master’s.

We both agreed it was likely our last opportunity to be roommates. It was a short enough stint that we wouldn’t compromise more than a decade of friendship over dirty dishes, but long enough to make some memories over cocktails.

I moved in and put my name on the list to get a parking spot at the Beltline apartment tower. Spoiler Alert: I did not get that parking spot.

Instead, every day that I left home in my car, I came back and had to parallel park somewhere in amongst the scores of vehicles lining every street. Some of the parkers were neighbours and others were visitors to the neighbourhood cleverly looking and finding free parking during a trip to 17th Ave.

But my challenge was set: Parallel park my boat of a car outside of my building, or circle the surrounding blocks for 15 minutes to find a spot to pull into. I’m brave impatient, so I quickly learned it’s better to parallel park than wander in frustration.

Parallel parking is a big challenge for some drivers I know. They’ll admit it. It’s part of driving that we tend to shrug off as inessential, like merging (*Calgary Rush Hour joke). But for the amount of sanity I have gained from being a confident parallel parker, I can heartily endorse everyone figure it out.

Three things that may help you become a better parallel parker: repetition, understanding the geometry of a parallel park, adding up the hours of life wasted looking for an easier spot to park.

By repetition, I mean the more you do it, the better you’ll get. But heed this footnote on an old adage. It’s not that “practice makes perfect,” rather that good practice makes perfect.

So brush up on your understanding of the geometry of a good parallel park.

Parallel parking: not so bad when you can see if from this angle, right? Source:

Parallel parking: not so bad when you can see if from this angle, right? Also, at least you’re not trying to park that boat on the left. Source:

And if you need to get a handle on driving backwards, consider going for a spin in reverse around an unoccupied parking lot. In an early driving lesson, I had to drive backwards around a Zellers parking lot for 10 minutes. I became more comfortable with driving in reverse and it was directly applicable to my parallel parking. Not that I’m bragging, but my driving tester said I parked like a teacher.

Finally, don’t waste your time avoiding a parallel park. Parallel parking is fun, in a nerdy kind of way. And you deserve rock star parking no matter where in the city you are.

If I could live in the densely populated, parking lot-deprived neighbourhood of Beltline and always find a parking spot within five minutes of my front door, you can too. I believe in you!

A myth about Calgary parking: It doesn’t have to cost an arm, a leg, and your mental health

Also: Let’s smash a Calgary parking legend right here and now. While yes, downtown parking rates are among the highest in North America, it’s not impossible to park downtown and in the surrounding communities for free. There are a lot of free 2-hour zones, and pay zones end around 6 p.m. Monday  to Saturday and Sunday is free.

When the weather is mild, I think it’s worth parking three blocks from your destination and walking (past lilacs, your next favourite shop and someone who will compliment your cool sunglasses) rather than driving in circles to get prime parking at no-spot o’clock.

Am I too passionate about parking? Maybe. The shorter version of this blog post is just: Hop on public transit with your bicycle. But where’s the fun in that? (Other than actually riding your bike, which is obviously fun.) By the way, got any other general parking tips or specific Calgary parking tips? I’m not the only parking nerd… right?


This blog post is part of my bid to become the East Village Resident Ambassador! In that role, I would live in the East Village, an exciting new neighbourhood rising on the banks of the Bow River in the heart of Calgary and tell stories about that life. It would be a whole new opportunity for some parking savvy (and so much more). If you think I’d be good at this gig, you can help by watching my 30-second promo video, sharing it and keeping an eye on my tweets tagged with #EVliving. When you fave, RT and reply to those tweets, you’ll help my chances of becoming the Resident Ambassador.

Filed under: East Village

About the Author

Posted by

I am a writer living under a pile of scrap paper and unopened fan mail from the cable company. I believe a messy desk is simply a sign of inspiration waiting to be uncovered. But I’m biased. More from me on Twitter: @zoeywrites


  1. I am the worst, I usually take three attempts, hold up traffic, feel foolish, then drive off and park somewhere easy 5.7km from where I need to be.

    I need to print out that diagram and stick it in my car.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahaha! It’s a process and it’s also hard if it’s not a regular thing in your life. I admit: I paralleled last night in a giant space and it took three attempts… but I blame it on feeling watched by some people partying on their balcony across the street. But visualizing the geometry helps!


  2. Derek Wilken

    Great post but you forgot to mention how much you hated driving in reverse. Like an elephant I never forget!


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