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.

 
 
 
 

Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit citymonitor.ai to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.


As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.