Roads are For People, Too: PARK(ing) Day Comes to F&ES

Roads are For People, Too: PARK(ing) Day Comes to F&ES

On Sept. 19, the F&ES community celebrated PARK(ing) Day, a grassroots initiative that continues to create awareness of the way we use, design, and assign urban public spaces. Current students and alumni filled the two parking spots in front of Kroon Hall with trees provided by the Urban Resources Initiative, flowers from Marsh Botanical Gardens, tables and chairs, and a bike rack. They also drew a temporary crosswalk across Prospect Street. Students, staff, faculty — even Yale President Peter Salovey — took a few moments to enjoy the pop-up communal space.

PARK(ing) Day is part of a larger movement called tactical urbanism. Commonly known as “guerilla” urbanism or “D.I.Y” urbanism, tactical urbanism bypasses the political, complex, and lengthy process of top down city planning and makes small improvements to our shared urban spaces. These projects are, in essence, community-led experiments. They succeed or fail, but they belong to the communities that design them, and often offer a service that the community wants, but that the city has not fulfilled.
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Though parking spots are public spaces, they only serve cars. It’s easy to assume that streets belong to cars. In today’s car-centered cities, they do. But the first smooth, paved streets were built for cyclists. In the late 1800s, U.S. cycling organizations protested against dismal road conditions. This eventually led to paved roads and the formation of the Federal Highway Administration. But with the rise of the automobile, the government began building and designing cities and roads for cars, instead of focusing on people.

For one day a year, impromptu “parks” spring up in parking spots across the world. It’s a reminder that pedestrians and cyclists also have a right to use these public spaces. That we can choose to change how we use public space. It’s a reminder that the streets don’t belong to cars. They belong to people.

New Haven’s Transportation, Traffic, and Parking Department donated parking spots to any entity that wanted to participate in PARK(ing) Day in the city. Through a new initiative, Go New Haven Go1, city officials are encouraging residents to “think outside the car” in an effort to build a healthier, more livable New Haven.

Here’s some inspiration for next year.

1 Go New Haven Go is a coalition made up of the New Haven Department of Transportation, Traffic, and Parking, CT Rides, the New Haven/León Sister City Project, Yale Transportation Options, New Haven Healthy City/Healthy Climate Challenge, Park New Haven, and the Yale Office of Sustainability.