The geometry of a perfect parallel park

Parallel parking is not so complicated when you think of it’s geometric patterns.

If you live in a big city, this scenario is all too familiar: Traffic is bad. You’re late for work. And, of course, the parking garage is now full. So you’re forced to parallel park on the street. You finally find a spot between two hulking SUVs, but it looks pretty tight. Do you go for it or move on?

Not to worry; geometry can save you. Run a simple calculation and — voila! — you’ll know just what to do.

Ignore the car that’s sneaking into your space as you do the calculation. You’ll need a few pieces of information:

  1. Your car’s turning radius, r
  2. The distance between the front and rear wheels, l
  3. The distance from your front wheel to the corner of the front bumper, k
  4. The width of the car you’re trying to park behind, w

Now it’s simply a matter of plugging those variables into the handy formula (see our illustration), and you’ll know if that spot could have been yours.

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