You're welcome to park yourself on the bench, your bike on the stand, your drink or shopping on the table.
When Brenda Puech - who does not have a car - tried to pay online for an annual parking permit in Hackney she found there were no options for planting a bench, plants or cycle stands in a parking bay. So she emailed parking services to ask if she could make her payment in person. The answer was a definite No. She could not have a permit for parking anything other than a car. With an engine.
So, she decided to go ahead anyway to show how the space could be used something other than for parking a car.
On Friday 26 May, at 6:30 pm she will transform a car parking bay in Hackney into a ‘people parking bay’. Instead of a car she will place items where people can park themselves (a bench), their shopping and bags (a table), their cycles (bike stands) and their eyes on plants and flowers.
This will be formally ‘opened’ by London Assembly Member Caroline Russell (Green Party) and attended by invited guests.
Caroline Russell says:
"I’m delighted to support Brenda Puech’s people’s parking bay direct action which humorously and gently points out the absurdity of confining the use of precious street space for storing cars.
With car ownership plummeting it seems extraordinary that residents who don’t own cars cannot pay to use road space for small parklets that beautify the street and make streets into less hostile and more sociable places."
Brenda wants to see ‘people parking bays’ on every street, where residents and businesses can place something apart from a car for communal use in a bay when they buy a permit.
This does not have to cost money for local authorities, or even lose them car parking revenue.
Households in Hackney and much of inner London that do not have a car outnumber the car owning homes by two to one. Yet all our kerbside space is given over to car parking. What is worse, cars in London are parked on average 95% of the time. This is a waste of valuable street space. A public resource - the street - is being allocated very inefficiently.
Walking is the most common way for people to get around and yet car parking dominates kerbside space. There is little or no provision for walkers to rest. Many people, including older and disabled people, and people with kids need regular rest stops while walking, and many pavements are too narrow for walking, let alone for benches.
Other than the dedicated cycle lanes, there is little space for cycling on our car-clogged roads.
We make walking, cycling and playing outdoors difficult and unattractive. The result: a society where almost half of children and adults are overweight or obese through physically inactivity. Many suffer and die from pollution, and more people walking or cycling are killed or seriously injured by cars than any other mode of transport. Children cannot play on streets that are dominated by parked cars, even when cars are not passing through.
Age UK says ‘Public seating for older people can make the difference between living a full life and being cut off and isolated’ (Pride of Place, 2011)
The Economist (Aparkalypse Now April 8-14th) says ‘Parking influences the way cities look, and how people travel, more powerfully than almost anything else’, and not in a positive way.
Public spaces in cities and kerbsides should be for people, not just for storage of private, stationary metal boxes.
We could use these spaces for seating, cycle parking or lanes, gardens, play areas or art - the possibilities are limited only by our imagination and our willingness to confront the cars.
Car parking is an underpriced private use of what should be public space. Some of us are asking for part of this space to be given back to the public - especially when the public is willing to pay the same price for it as car owners.
Please send your comments and pictures of yourself using the parking bay so that we can post them up on this site. I won't publish your name or email address (unless you want me to!).
Pictures from the launch
More coming soon!