Thursday, September 24, 2009

Park(ing) Day 2009: a missive from Thomas

A welcome post by my friend, fellow urban farmer & We Walk to Work organizer, Thomas Vogl:

5 of us ventured out on Park(ing) Day morning to find a nice metered parking spot on Haight Street. Yes, we had in mind to feed the meter, but not to park a car. Park(ing) Day, a worldwide phenomena, is about re-thinking the use of public space, specifically street parking spaces. If you legally lease a space (by feeding the meter), why couldn't you put it to a different, better use?

In our case, we decided to create a little cozy living room and invite friends and whoever would pass by. Right on Haight Street (and Clayton). We decorated everything nicely with plenty of plants, put down some blankets, rugs, and cushions, and sat down to relax, and were curious to see what would happen.

Lots of people seemingly had no idea what to think about us. But almost everyone was curious enough to stop and investigate. One of the most wonderful things about that day - was that some people stopped in their tracks, and started talking. Some people took the time to take their shoes off and sit down with us.

On a physical level, sitting on the street gives you a really different perspective. Cars, and especially trucks, feel even more intimidating and dangerous. And you're even closer to the noise and exhaust fumes they are emitting. Oh, time to get up, and feed the meter again (let's keep it legal :) ). One of the best moments this morning - when a group of hippies stopped, and we told them what we were doing. their immediate reaction: "Sitting on the street? you must be joking? We so do that!" Could that be the first humble beginnings of turning Haight Street into a pedestrian area?

After lunch Adam and I ventured out to check out some other places on Valencia Street. Several 'parks' spread out along 10 blocks. Everything from a simple sitting area, to real grass with deck chairs and trees. The Bicycle Coalition took the opportunity to test bicycle on-street parking (bicycle racks on a parking spot rather than on the side walk). And everywhere the same playful and neighborhoodly atmosphere of chatting and having fun together.

Adam and I at one point got cocky, grabbed our chairs, and sat down right in the center lane of Valencia Street. 2 very interesting observations:
  1. a street occupies a lot of space.
  2. almost immediately cars slowed down! I guess they didn't know what to expect from us. Another way of traffic calming :)

An almost perfect day, and I can't wait for the next Park(ing) Day! But why wait until next year? Everyone of us can 'park' her/himself, on any day! Happy Park(ing)! :)


A A D D A A M M C C said...

bought this drawing before i moved:
says "walk to work more"

Ashley said...

LOVE it!