Parking Day, Friday September 18th
In 2006, a planning/artist collective in San Francisco called Rebar Group created what they called "Parking Day," to demonstrate the high cost to placemaking from dedicating so much public space to the automobile, for car storage ("Drop a coin in the meter and enjoy the park," John King, San Francisco Chronicle, 2006).
Although separately the pandemic has sparked a number of independent initiatives by local governments aimed at increasing space dedicated to walking and biking:
-- "(More) People on streets and the coronavirus"
-- "From more space to socially distance to a systematic program for pedestrian districts (Park City (Utah) Main Street Car Free on Sundays)"
and cities continue to announce related initiatives such as street speed reductions ("D.C. cuts speed limit to 20 mph to curb pedestrian deaths," Washington Post).
While Parking Day is an ephemeral event and too often local groups fail to leverage the event as a way to spark deeper structural changes ("Walk to School Day and Park(ing) Day as missed opportunities for community organizing," 2013), in many communities it has led to the creation of more permanent "livable streets" initiatives including in-street permanent "parklet" ventures.
-- San Francisco Sustainable Mobility and Climate Action Strategy
-- "Long Beach joins the national 'parklets' trend: Three restaurants have won city approval to convert a few highly valued parking spaces into green space. In some cities, the parklets are open to the public, but these will be for patrons' use only," Los Angeles Times
-- "Sunset Triangle Plaza: LA's First Pedestrian Plaza Conversion is Now Open!," Inhabitant
-- Livable Streets Program, City of Los Angeles Department of Transportation
-- Groundplay SF public space research initiative, San Francisco
-- Reclaiming the Right of Way: A Toolkit for Creating and Implementing Parklets, UCLA
Sunset Triangle Plaza, Los Angeles, Rios-Clementi-Hale-Studios
It also helped to spawn the "tactical urbanism" movement, although there are antecedents, such as the City Repair organization in Portland and the various activities of Seattle's Department of Neighorhoods.
-- Tactical Urbanism Volume 1
-- Tactical Urbanism Volume 2
-- Better Block Foundation
-- City Repair,Portland (effort pre-dates Rebar Group, and probably influenced it)
-- City Repair's Placemaking Guidebook, second edition
-- Neighborista, a blog on creative tactical urbanism projects (defunct, archive)
-- Tactical Urbanism Public Space Stewardship Guide
-- Tactical Urbanist’s Guide to Materials and Design
-- "Seattle will let neighborhoods design their own crosswalks," Seattle Bike Blog
Note, that's "tactical urbanism" not "temporary urbanism" ("Building the arts and culture ecosystem in DC: Part One, sustained efforts vs. one-off or short term initiatives," 2015). My criticism of temporary urbanism is ephemeral and doesn't build to greater achievements. By contrast, tactical urbanism is about building a process that will lead to long term improvements.
Pedibikes, pedestrians and bikers move up and down Beach Boulevard during the Meet On Beach event in Buena Park on Sunday, November 17, 2019. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG).
A broader community-focused placemaking/sustainable mobility agenda
1. "Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces""
2. Create neighborhood focused urban design and placemaking plans ("Planning urban design improvements at the neighborhood scale: Dupont Circle, DC").
3. Create an annual program of Open Streets events ("Dare to be great (active transportation): Los Angeles edition," 2012) at the city wide and neighborhood scales. Maybe incorporate neighborhood street festivals into the program. And Parking Day. And Jane's Walk. Use these events to promote sustainable mobility more broadly.
The approach in LA County is county-wide, with events quarterly, throughout the county.
Meet on Beach," connecting cities along Beach Boulevard, fronting the Pacific Ocean ("They met (and cycled, walked, bus-hopped) on O.C.’s Beach (Blvd.): For a day, parts of the 21-mile thoroughfare were pedestrian friendly," Orange County Register).
4. Create a "city-wide" pedestrianized way that can be successful ("Why doesn't every big city in North America have its own Las Ramblas?").
For example, I've suggested that the one block Ellsworth Avenue in Montgomery County's Downtown Silver Spring could be significantly extended in both directions, but most significantly, to the Metrorail Station ("items 19-21 in this entry").
5. Pedestrian more spaces where it can be successful ("Diversity Plaza, Queens, a pedestrian exclusive block").
6. Expand biking initiatives ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 1, leveraging Bike Month") including infrastructure, facilities ("Bike to Work Day as an opportunity to assess the state of bicycle planning: Part 2, building a network of bike facilities at the regional scale") and support for making the transition to biking as transportation ("Revisiting assistance programs to get people biking: 18 programs").