Guest : Andrew Thompson
It’s not just you, it really is getting harder to park at South African shopping centres –
Parking bays aren't getting smaller, but your car (and other people's cars) have grown a
lot larger than they were in the 1980s.
That's when the standards around parking spaces in South Africa were last updated.
The result is bakkies that don't fit into spaces lengthways – and can have trouble
opening their doors to let occupants in.
If the parking spaces at shopping centres feel a little cramped these days, it might not
be just a sign that you are getting old.
No, shopping centres aren't shaving centimetres off parking spaces either. It's just that
those parking bays are based on standards that were set some 40 years ago – and now
they are too small for some of the most popular cars in use.
Developers aren't necessarily crazy about the amount of space needed for parking, says
Stephen Whitehead, architect at Boogertman and Partners, which has built several
retail spaces and office parks in South Africa, including Sandton’s The Marc, and Cape
Town’s Standard Bank Towers – but they also know that too little or bad parking will
“A sensible developer will be careful of providing poor parking solutions” he says. “All
that has to happen is for a shopper to scratch his or her car, and they’ll lose that
shopper for life.”
That does not mean there aren't questionable design decisions, such as pillars that cut
into underground parking bay spaces, and perimeter walls that restrict door opening.
But if you are having trouble fitting your car into a space, the most likely problem is
that the sizes for parking bays are set out in national building codes that were based on
average vehicle sizes in what is starting to qualify as the distant past, in automotive
University of Stellenbosch emeritus professor and civil engineer CJ Bester co-authored a
paper about parking bays in South Africa in 2012. He points out that the basic guidelines
for parking bay sizes were set in the 1980s by the South African Department of
Since then, Bester found that the length and width of light vehicles has increased by an
average 10%. And in recent years, there has also been a significant increase vehicles
like large bakkies, vans and SUVs, that are too big for the outdated parking dimensions.
Put two or more such large vehicles next to each other, and you start running into
Parking bays are too small for some cars – and bakkies in particular
According to the 1985 guidelines, and the current South African national code, a typical
90-degree parking bay, like those commonly found in underground parking garages,
should be at least 2.5 metres wide by 5 metres deep.
They should also have an aisle - the lane leading up to the bay - of at least 7 metres to
ensure easy turning access into the bay.
But these guidelines are no longer able to suitably accommodate several of South
Africa’s top-selling vehicles.
The Toyota Hilux, which sold 40,022 units in 2018 and is South Africa’s best selling
vehicle overall, is 33 centimetres too long for a standard parking bay.
Getting out of the vehicle is often the biggest struggle for drivers and passengers,
If the driver of a Hilux parks his car in the centre of the bay, the doors can only open to
a lateral distance of 32.25 centimetres before they intrude on the neighbouring bay,
leaving a narrow wedge to squeeze out of.
Parking Spaces at malls
Guest : Andrew Thompson
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