This Friday, cities around the world will be turning parking spaces into parks

Parking Day in Paris in 2011. Image: Getty.

Parklets are popping up everywhere. Cities around the world – and increasingly across Australia from Fremantle to the Fraser Coast – are introducing programs to convert roadside parking spots into more green and sociable spaces.

In Sydney, Waverley Council’s Urban Interventions program received an award for “best planning idea” from the Planning Institute of Australia (NSW) in 2014. The Glebe Chamber of Commerce is running a crowdfunding campaign to turn its pilot parklet into a more lasting installation.

Before parklets there was PARK(ing). In 2005, members of the San Francisco design collective Rebar paid an on-street parking meter for two hours. Rather than park a car, Rebar used the space to create a “park” with turf, a tree, a bench and signs inviting passers-by to sit and relax. Rebar then packed up and returned the space to its former condition.

While the event was not intended to continue beyond the initial two hours, photos and video were rapidly shared online. The images proved inspirational: requests quickly came from people asking how to create their own “parks”. Rebar responded by producing a how-to guide and decided to launch an event that would make a much bigger statement about the use of public space.

From little things … Rebar’s original pop-up park in San Francisco in 2005. Image: my.parkingday.org.

Going global

In 2006, the first PARK(ing) Day was celebrated with 47 “parks” in 13 cities across three countries. The event grew rapidly, expanding to more than 200 parks in 2007 and featuring in the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2008. By 2011, PARK(ing) Day included almost 1,000 parks in 35 countries.

PARK(ing) Day has spread beyond the event itself. As well as parklet programs, the first of which was introduced in San Francisco in 2010, the day has inspired a number of other activities.

Participants have gone on to develop a range of related events, from the skipsters of Melbourne to the temporary villages of Montreal to the worldwide Better Block movement.

A pop-up parklet in Sydney in 2014 displays proof of payment for the use of the parking space. Image: author provided.

At the core of PARK(ing) Day is an idea about law. Paying the parking meter was seen as a way to access ownership, albeit temporarily, in a city where the means to acquire legal title were beyond the reach of many residents.


Its instigators described this act as creating a “lease”, a property right that brought with it a right to engage in planning, by participating in the development of a vision of what could be and, significantly, in the (fleeting) material creation of that vision.

At first, the vision was for more parks in an area that – according to the city’s own maps – had little green space. In subsequent iterations in cities around the world, PARK(ing) Day participants have claimed and reclaimed the street in diverse and dynamic ways: from croquet greens to community health clinics, libraries to lemonade stands, bike workshops to weddings.

Turning a parking space into a park is a quirky idea, but even in 2005 it was not entirely new. Precedents can be found in many cities over many years: from the installations on California roads by Bonnie Ora Sherk in the 1970s, to the Parking Meter Parties held in Hamilton, Ontario, from 2001, to Ted Dewan’s road witching in Oxford, UK, from 2003, to Michael Rakowitz’s 2004 (P)LOT projects in Vienna, Austria, and Trento, Italy.

Yet none of these precursors succeeded in engaging or inspiring people on such a grand scale.

The power of a ‘sticky’ idea

Rebar describes PARK(ing) Day as a “sticky” idea. With very little organisation – almost none in recent years, since Rebar no longer exists – the event has proved extremely durable.

While some participants engage consistently over many years (the Sydney office of ARUP has built “parks” seven times since 2008), most participate just a few times. PARK(ing) Day continues to attract new participants: North Sydney Girls High School and locals around Australia Street, Newtown, are some of the newest.

Local residents transform parking spaces in Australia Street, Newtown.

The reach of PARK(ing) may be traced to the power of the initial image, or to the success (or luck) of Rebar in connecting with particularly influential people.

More than this, however, a key part of the event’s success is its connection to law. PARK(ing) Day was not presented as a protest, a plea for change, or a proposal for reform. On the contrary, PARK(ing) Day was expressly presented as something already legal. PARK(ing) Day provides a powerful invitation to citizens around the world to rethink the city and their place in it.

Friday, 16 September is the 11th PARK(ing) Day. Information and guidance are available. Check it out. Better still, build your own “park”.The Conversation

Amelia Thorpe is director of environmental law at the UNSW Australia.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

Was the decline in Liverpool’s historic population really that unusual?

A view of Liverpool from Birkenhead. Image: Getty.

It is often reported that Liverpool’s population halved after the 1930s. But is this true? Or is it a myth?

Often, it’s simply assumed that it’s true. The end. Indeed, proud Londoner Lord Adonis – a leading proponent of the Liverpool-bypassing High Speed 2 railway, current chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, and generally a very influential person – stood on the stairs in Liverpool Town Hall in 2011 and said:

“The population of Liverpool has nearly halved in the last 50 years.”

This raises two questions. Firstly, did the population of the City of Liverpool really nearly halve in the 50 year period to 2011? That’s easy to check using this University of Portsmouth website – so I did just that (even though I knew he was wrong anyway). In 2011, the population of the City of Liverpool was 466,415. Fifty years earlier, in 1961, it was 737,637, which equates to a 37 per cent drop. Oops!

In fact, the City of Liverpool’s peak population was recorded in the 1931 Census as 846,302. Its lowest subsequent figure was recorded in the 2001 Census as 439,428 – which represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over a 70 year period.

Compare this to the population figures for the similarly sized City of Manchester. Its peak population also recorded in the 1931 Census as 748,729, and its lowest subsequent figure was also recorded in the 2001 Census, as 392,830. This also represents a 48 per cent decline from the peak population, over the same 70 year period.

So, as can be seen here, Liverpool is not a special case at all. Which makes me wonder why it is often singled out or portrayed as exceptional in this regard, in the media and, indeed, by some badly briefed politicians. Even London has a similar story to tell, and it is told rather well in this recent article by a Londoner, for the Museum of London. (Editor’s note: It’s one of mine.)

This leads me onto the second question: where have all those people gone: London? The Moon? Mars?

Well, it turns out that the answer is bit boring and obvious actually: after World War 2, lots of people moved to the suburbs. You know: cars, commuter trains, slum clearance, the Blitz, all that stuff. In other words, Liverpool is just like many other places: after the war, this country experienced a depopulation bonanza.


So what form did this movement to the suburbs take, as far as Liverpool was concerned? Well, people moved and were moved to the suburbs of Greater Liverpool, in what are now the outer boroughs of the city region: Halton, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton, Wirral. Others moved further, to Cheshire West & Chester, West Lancashire, Warrington, even nearby North Wales, as previously discussed here.

In common with many cities, indeed, Liverpool City Council actually built and owned large several ‘New Town’ council estates, to which they moved tens of thousands of people to from Liverpool’s inner districts: Winsford in Cheshire West (where comedian John Bishop grew up), Runcorn in Halton (where comedian John Bishop also grew up), Skelmersdale in West Lancashire, Kirkby in Knowsley. There is nothing unique or sinister here about Liverpool (apart from comedian John Bishop). This was common practice across the country – Indeed, it was central government policy – and resulted in about 160,000 people being ‘removed’ from the Liverpool local authority area.

Many other people also moved to the nearby suburbs of Greater Liverpool to private housing – another trend reflected across the country. It’s worth acknowledging, however, that cities across the world are subject to a level of ‘churn’ in population, whereby many people move out and many people move in, over time, too.

So how did those prominent images of derelict streets in the inner-city part of the City of Liverpool local authority area come about? For that, you have to blame the last Labour government’s over-zealous ‘Housing Market Renewal Initiative’ (HMRI) disaster – and the over enthusiastic participation of the then-Lib Dem controlled city council. On the promise of ‘free’ money from central government, the latter removed hundreds of people from their homes with a view to demolishing the Victorian terraces, and building new replacements. Many of these houses, in truth, were already fully modernised, owner-occupied houses within viable and longstanding communities, as can be seen here in Voelas Street, one of the famous Welsh Streets of Liverpool:

Voelas Street before HMRI implementation. Image: WelshStreets.co.uk.

The same picture after HMRI implementation Image: WelshStreets.co.uk. 

Nonetheless: the council bought the houses and ‘tinned them up’ ready for demolition. Then the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government, elected in 2010, pulled the plug on the scheme. 

Fast forward to 2017 and many of the condemned houses have been renovated, in a process which is still ongoing. These are over-subscribed when they come to market, suggesting that the idea was never appropriate for Liverpool on that scale. 

At any rate, it turns out that the Liverpool metropolitan population is pretty much the same as it was at its peak in 1931 (depending where the local borough boundaries are arbitrarily drawn). It just begs the question: why are well educated and supposedly clever people misrepresenting the Liverpool metropolis, in particular, in this way so often? Surely they aren’t stupid are they?


And why are some people so determined to always isolate the City of Liverpool from its hinterland, while London is always described in terms of its whole urban area? It just confuses and undermines what would otherwise often be worthwhile comparisons and discussions. Or, to put it another way: “never, ever, compare apples with larger urban zones”.

In a recent Channel 4 documentary, for example, the well-known and respected journalist Michael Burke directly compared the forecast population growths, by 2039, of the City of Liverpool single local authority area against that of the combined 33 local authority areas of Greater London: 42,722 versus 2.187,708. I mean, what bizarre point is such an inappropriate comparison even trying to make? It is like comparing the projected growth of a normal sized-person’s head with the projected growth of the whole of an obese person, over a protracted period.

Having said all that, there is an important sensible conversation to be had as to why the populations of the Greater Liverpool metropolis and others haven’t grown as fast as maybe should have been the case, whilst, in recent times, the Greater London population has been burgeoning. But constantly pitching it as some sort of rare local apocalypse helps no one.

Dave Mail has declared himself CityMetric’s Liverpool City Region correspondent. He will be updating us on the brave new world of Liverpool City Region, mostly monthly, in ‘E-mail from Liverpool City Region’ and he is on twitter @davemail2017.