PARK(ing) Day: Streets for people

On Friday, September 20th, Richmond will join the rest of the world in celebrating PARK(ing) Day. Parking sucks, so why are we celebrating it? Well, this is PARK(ing) Day, not Parking Day. The former is an international event where folks transform horrible parking spaces into wonderful, temporary parklets for people, while the latter is…not a real thing (at least we hope not).

This year, Venture Richmond (spearheaded by our very own Max), has taken Richmond’s previously limited (but still cool!) PARK(ing) Day efforts and kicked them up a notch. We’ll have not one, not two, but 23 parklets spread across different parts of the city.

BAM!, as they once said.

PARK(ing) Day is great but, unfortunately, oh-so-temporary, which is why we’re stoked on the addition of a competitive aspect this year. About half of the groups creating parklets on Friday have opted-in to a design/build competition judged by Ryan Rinn (formerly of Storefront for Community Design), Emily Smith of 1708 Gallery, Nathan Burrell of City Parks and Rec, and Yessenia Revilla who manages the City’s parklet program. The winning group will win a nice little chunk of start-up capital and the chance to work with Venture and the City to make their temporary parket a permanent place for people to hang downtown. This new, permanent parklet would be the first to take advantage of the City’s parklet program and serve as an example for other aspiring mini-park designers.

Why does all of this matter? Because cities are, ultimately, for people not cars. So much of our Downtown is taken up by parking decks, parking lots, parking spaces, and so little space—especially Downtown—is dedicated towards giving people a humane place to simply exist. PARK(ing) Day is important because it gives us a visual reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way! In fact, it’s pretty easy to take back some of that space and make our city a more comfortable, liveable, and fun place to be.

You can check out a map of all PARK(ing) Day locations here and find a bit more information over on the Facebook event page. If you’d like to spend some time touring the parklets, check out Bike Walk RVA’s parklet bike tour or hop on the Pulse, which rolls by a by a handful of parklets at the Scott’s Addition, Arts District, and Main Street Stations. It’s against the rules to drive on PARK(ing) Day.

What works for your neighborhood?

If you visit the Main Library (101 E. Franklin Street) between today and Tuesday, take a look to your left as you enter the building and you’ll see artist Carl Patow’s WORKS WHEN installation.

From Carl’s website:

WORKS WHEN asks residents of Richmond, VA “what works for them in their neighborhood”. They place a small pearl on a handheld stylized map of the city, locating their neighborhood.

Each tile is an artifact – documentation of a conversation about the community in which the participant lives. On the reverse of the tile, they write a sentence about their neighborhood that includes the words “WORKS WHEN”.

Over 300 tiles are assembled geographically on a large simplified floor map of the city. The accumulated tiles offer insights about what is important for neighborhoods to function and  for communities to thrive.

First, this is an excellent example of broad community engagement, that, at least in my experience, folks could actually have time for. No one wants to fill out your three-page survey while they’re running in to the library to check out a book, apply for a job, or use the 3D-printer(!).

Second, the stylized map of Richmond—marked only by the river and Broad Street—is clever but definitely compresses the city’s less dense neighborhoods while expanding those where more people live. That’s similar to what transit maps frequently do, the London Underground Map being one of the most famous examples.

If you’ve got time over the next couple of days, stop by the library, check out the piece, and read some of what works for folks in their neighborhoods.

Live on a play street instead of a die street

Streetfilms has a new video up about Life on a Dutch Woonerf. In Dutch, woonerf means “living yard,” and, as you’ll see in the video, streets which prioritize people are excellent places to live. NACTO calls these Residential Shared Streets, and has a bunch of recommendations to turn your neighborhood street into a place safe enough for children to play, ride around in a cool bike squad, or get into just the right amount of kid-appropriate mischief.

Do streets like this exist in Richmond? If so, tell us! More likely, you probably have an idea for where such a street could exist in your community with the right improvements. Yeah, tell us about those, too!