It has recently become clear to me that most parking lots are pretty poorly designed. They mostly have have a design like this:
The brown represents the building, light gray is the sidewalk, dark gray is pavement, and the road at the top is whatever main road connects to the parking lot.
There are two main problems with this design, both related to the vehicle lane that runs between the building and the parking spots. The first is that vehicles and pedestrians are forced to mix. The space in front of the building becomes an area of constant, frustrating conflict between pedestrians leaving and entering the building, drivers attempting to go straight through, drivers making turns, and drivers pulling out. While speeds may be low so that injury accidents and deaths aren't too much of a problem, I can't believe it's the most pleasant and efficient way to get people in and out.
The second problem is that the apparently easy access to "good" spots close to the building just exacerbates the congestion. The majority of drivers are tempted to use the lot entrance closest to the building and contribute to the mess. The high concentration of parked vehicles closer to the building also makes it more difficult to safely enter and exit a parking spot.
This is one way that I propose parking lots could be improved:
Please forgive me for adding a row, I needed it to make the design work.
Essentially, my intention was to make it inconvenient for vehicles to drive straight through beside the building and only allow them to turn into the next row.
My initial plan actually eliminated the first lot entrance and completely blocked vehicles driving straight, but then I remembered that there has to be a fire lane so I had to find a way to allow at least one vehicle width of drivable space.
The first thing I did was to take two parking spots from every other row and move them to the adjacent row. This results in no loss of parking spots and gives vehicles more room to turn. Then I extended the sidewalk to meet the extended rows and added green lines between the parking spots to represent some sort of barrier that prevents vehicles from crossing. The sidewalk should be only slightly raised and ramp down to the parking lot so that emergency vehicles can use it, but normal drivers would be discouraged. The lot entrance closest to the building should be posted for emergency vehicle use only so that drivers could only enter the lot from the rear.
I hope that this design would have a few positive effects. First, with the knowledge that once they go down a row they're pretty much committed to it, drivers should be encouraged to take whatever spots are available instead of driving a great distance around the lot to save a short distance walking. This should reduce congestion and create a more even spacing of parked vehicles. The greatest benefit would be the improved environment in front of the store. There would be far fewer conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles, which should be safer and create a more pleasant experience for all guests. After all, these days virtually all of them have to both drive to the building and walk into it.
This almost seems like too good of an idea to not have been considered before, so I'd like to know what you think. I'm not professionally or academically responsible for any of this so it's basically just a thought experiment because I'm bored. The biggest issue I can see is that it would encourage drivers to cut across rows of parking spots. That could be prevented with suitable barriers, but they would raise costs and impair snow removal.