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Dodging, weaving and twisting

Parking in Spain is odd. I've said so before. Most car parks in town centres, for supermarkets, for blocks of flats and the like are underground and very labyrinthine. Only the big new shopping centres regularly have surface or multi storey car parks.

The standard construction method for Spanish buildings is to build a frame from concrete pillars and then brick in between these weight bearing columns. The columns, logically enough, extend (or is it start) in the underground space. The spacing and placement of the columns is dependant on the form of the building above and the result is an interesting maze of very hefty obstacles for the parking motorist. Lots and lots of times the access is tortuous to say the least. Scratch marks along the concrete and the armoured protection for the ticket machines show that lots of motorists don't get it right.

Purpose built car parks, in the sense of places offering paid for parking, usually have gently sloping access roads to lull you into a false sense of security before cleverly placing the ticket machines at the apex of a curved entrance. There is a delicate balance between being able to reach the ticket with your finger tips and preserve the original bodywork design of your motor.

The entrance to the car parks beneath town centre supermarkets is different. The majority of their access ramps have angles of over 30º on the slope. Going down is like tipping over the edge on a roller coaster and you worry that the front edge of the car will bottom out at the bottom of the slope. Going up it's impossible to see anything in front, except bonnet, until you crest the hill. That can be hard on pedestrians who thought the pavement at the top of the ramp was safe ground. Bottoming out on the top lip is also a real possibility. The ticket machines are easy though, usually just close enough to the bottom of the slope to mean you have the rear wheels well above the front wheels.

Angled turns, straight walls meeting straight walls to provide a tight turn in a seemingly large space, are another standard design feature. Curved walls are for cissies or maybe the French. Low level obstacles are a definite must for any Spanish car park. Easy to see as you approach but then they disappear under the waistline of the car as you get close enough to bend metal. Heating ducts are a little bonus. You think you're safe, your motor is backed snug into a space, you flick open the hatchback and it smashes into the low level heating duct that you hadn't noticed till you heard the bang; your gaze is held by the paint chips floating gently to ground.

We have underground car parking beneath our new flat. The access ramp was easy and but for it being a bit tight getting into our assigned spot was easy enough too. One thing about private parking is that there is nobody behind urging you to hurry up so you have time to get lines right. As we were leaving, still on foot, someone was taking their car out from this garage. Our car being in the space opposite theirs had reduced their room for manoeuvre and, as they edged back to try to gain some forward space there was that crunching sound as car metal collapsed in that shock absorbing way it is designed to do. The driver took no notice and waved jollily as they pulled away. An everyday hazard.

I took mental note to take my time when I'm parking there in future.


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