Park(ing) Day Comes to Moscow
American cities began grappling with the problem of traffic jams in the 1930s. European cities became densely populated with cars in the 1960s. Today, most major cities of the world have tried to solve problems related to growing private car ownership with varying degrees of success. In addition to harming the environment, cars monopolize space in urban areas, forcing the city to build new highways and parking lots to further allocate space for vehicles. Research also shows that using cars reduces positive social interactions, which define livable cities.
About 70% of the land in downtown San Francisco (excluding buildings), is occupied by moving and parked cars. Only a small portion of the remaining available space is suitable for the needs of pedestrians and urban residents. This situation prompted activists from Rebar – an interdisciplinary design studio in the city – to rent a parking space and put it to better use. In 2005, for a few hours, artists from the studio legally leased a parking space at the municipal parking lot. They spread out some astro-turf, added a bench, a tree and skating rink, and fenced off a green area within the parking lot. The parking space was transformed into a small park, and a new project – Park(ing) Day – was born.
Photograph from www.parkingday.ru by Alex P. 2011
Park(ing) Day encourages citizens to lease and temporarily convert privatized vehicle parking spaces in to a greener, publicly oriented space. The idea is to create a car free, green public space in which citizens can relax and socialize.
Every year in September, Park(ing) Day is celebrated around the world as the day of turning parking lots into parks. It has become a popular, global event for activists, artists, and citizens to reclaim privatized spaces, temporarily re-purpose and transform them into something more meaningful. Park(ing) Day is now a recognized day for "re-programming valuable real estate," and converting private parking lots into public spaces. Participating is simple – lease a metered parking spot for private vehicles and convert it into a space for public recreational activity.
In 2010, Park(ing) Day was held in 183 cities around the world. And on September 16, 2011, Moscow celebrated its first Park(ing) Day near the Krasnye Vorota metro station. Citizens sat around, played instruments and shared information with passersby about the concept.
With its increased number of cars over the last few years, Moscow has also witnessed growing traffic congestion – the city ranks number 8 on the list of worst traffic jams in cities around the world, and drivers can spend an average of 2.5 hours per day stuck in their vehicles.
Despite an available public transport system – metro, bus and trolly – people seem drawn to individual modes of transport. This might be where cycling paths and infrastructure like cycle racks would be useful – unfortunately, plans to create cycling friendly city are also now on hold.
In 2012, Park(ing) Day will be celebrated on September 21.
More information: www.parkingday.ru and www.parkingday.org
Photos from: Alex Petelin on Parking Day
Translated from Russian by Shriya Malhotra