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Party in the park: campaign urges people to reimagine parking spaces

London only has 1 million things. Not Foxtons branches or expensive paint, but parking spaces. Aligned, they would stretch for more than 3,000 miles, across the Atlantic. Yet the cars they’re designed for are parked and unused 95 percent of the time, which activists say is a waste of valuable space.

In an attempt to change things, they organized the first People parking day This weekend (September 25-26), which will see people reclaim parking spaces with activities like fitness classes and tea parties and even planting gardens.

The London Parklet campaign, which is made up of volunteers, is working with the charity Living Streets London and IBikeLondon, which runs free community bike rides in London, to encourage Londoners to reinvent spaces. Your request? That parking lot on every residential street in London can be turned into a community space.

“I want all Londoners, whether they have a car or not, have access to these public spaces,” explained the founder of the campaign, Brenda Puech. “Not everyone is lucky enough to have a private garden, so providing social spaces close to people’s homes is essential.”

Puech said the idea came to her while she was recovering from being hit from her bicycle by a motorist who ran a red light. After being denied official permission to transform the parking space in front of his home in London Fields, northeast London, he set up a guerilla ‘parklet’. The People Parking Bay was a patch of artificial grass with flower pots, a bench, and a sign that read, “You can park in the bay.”

People used the space as a resting point on the way back from shopping or cycling; mothers used it to feed their babies; and locals watered the plants, Peuch said. “A couple had their first date there.”

It was soon removed by the Hackney city council.

Undeterred, Peuch and The London Parklet Campaign are now calling on London Mayor Sadiq Khan and county leaders to allow Londoners to apply to create ‘parklets’ on the streets where they live. They note that more than 60 per cent of the people who live in the interior of London do not have a car.

Pop-up events are planned throughout the city this weekend. The best-designed parklet will win £ 100, judging by the Victoria and Albert Museum’s top designers, Sam Brown and Heather Whitbread.

Activists say they want to build on the success of London’s ‘streeteries’ – seating areas that were set up in car parks to support bars and restaurants during the pandemic. In addition to their social benefits, proponents say, parklets can help address the climate crisis by greening urban areas and providing additional stormwater drainage.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a private garden, so providing social spaces near people’s homes is critical.

“Despite their popularity, getting approval for ‘community parklets’ is a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Peuch. “There is no process in any London borough. Commercial parklets are seen as desirable, while the bar for their cheap and cheerful community equivalent is set prohibitively high: residents must take out a huge liability insurance policy (up to £ 10 million proposed in a London borough) , simply to install a bench and table in the street ”.

Jeremy Leach, President of London Living Streets, said: “Allowing people to create parklets will empower communities, create social alliances and allow people to invest in the streets they live on, with a marginal impact on the number of parking spaces. parking. At this time of recovery from Covid and real concerns about climate change, we need to start a big shift from streets for vehicles to streets for people. “

And Beatriz Puerta, who runs Humdingers Catering in Hoxton, added: We want a place for families to eat together when they come to our soup kitchen. Having a parklet outside our cafe would create a community identity and be a green garden addition to the streets of Hoxton.

Lead Image: London Parklet Campaign


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