Today is (PARK)ing Day!
For those who are not familiar with it, (PARK)ing Day is a movement to reclaim and transform public spaces – such as parking spots – into temporary public parks. (PARK)ing Day occurs once a once a year for one whole day, and it is a global movement. It was originally started by the San Francisco art and design collective Rebar.
The first (PARK)ing Day was in 2005, when Rebar converted one metered parking space into a temporary park in a part of San Francisco with few public open spaces. Rebar sought to explore the concept of public space in urban environments when it created (PARK)ing, as the project was first called. The concept of public open space is loaded with a good deal of irony. Though public open spaces are meant to be places in which people can gather, socialize, etc., they are often totally underutilized, or in some cases, even feared as being places where homeless people or criminals hang out. Though the fears of public space are often totally unfounded or unnecessary, they are certainly problematic. Additionally, much “open space” in urban areas tends to be devoted to car parking. According to the (PARK)ing Day website, in San Francisco, up to 70% of the city’s downtown outdoor space is dedicated to car parking, and only a small fraction of that space is allocated to public use. Since 2005, the event has grown into a global movement. Several non-profits support Rebar and the movement, including the Trust for Public Land.
But, truth be told, the event actually started in Brooklyn, New York, but the name came from the Rebar group. On October 25, 2005, a handful of New Yorkers associated with Transportation Alternatives squatted down in a parking spot, offered free bike parking, and a place to meet friends and strangers alike, and this encouraged people to begin to question the concept of charging money for the use of public space and dedicating so much public space to cars.
Fortunately, my town of Tucson, Arizona, is one of those cities! In 2008, I spent some time at (PARK)ing day with all sorts of folks, including graduate students from the Geography Department and cyclists from the University of Arizona Cycling Club. The UA Cycling Club has a few bike-fix-it days on the UA campus each semester, so the the (PARK)ing Day was a perfect place to have another bike-fix-it day. Since (PARK)ing Day is strictly non-commercial and bike-fix-it days provide free bike repair service to anyone who needs it, this is a perfect fit!
So in 2009, we did it again: lubed chains, tightened bolts, pumped up tires, and spread bike love. Plus, we got to hang out with the fantastic folks from the Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. They are working hard to get bike boxes and bike corrals installed throughout the city of Tucson. Thanks!
Photos of Tucson’s (PARK)ing Day
Pumping up tires on a Kona Ute
Tucson is getting a bike corral! Look out Portland…
We had to check out the new 4th Ave. Underpass (view from the back of the Xtracycle, and no I did not make it up the other side with my “load”…)
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with the turn-out for (PARK)ing Day in Tucson this year. Last year, nearly the whole length of University Ave. on Main Gate Square was taken over, but this year, there were just a few spots interspersed between the parked cars. Not to mention, despite the university area being one of the most high-traffic (foot, bike, and car) areas in Tucson, hardly anyone took the time to stop at the spaces. Everyone was in such a rush. We had to shout to get cyclists’ attention in order to pump up tires with low pressure and lube squeaky chains. Our friend across the street with the Zen Garden told us that we were only the 2nd group of people to stop by all day!
But anyways, the important thing is that we were out there. Next year, UtilityCycling.org will rent out a space for the day!