When you stop and think about it, it is amazing just how much space we have chosen to give over to automobiles. Certainly, there are the car storage locations: surface parking lots, street parking spots, driveways, and huge parking garages. But what about freeways? Entire neighborhoods have been sacrificed and razed to the ground to make way for these massive, intrusive structures, and the soul of the areas surrounding freeways is in turn sacrificed for the sake of increasing travel speeds for cars. Even more fundamentally, what about streets? So much pavement is given exclusively to cars, with comparatively little space for pedestrians, cyclists and street amenities like plants, greenery, and benches.
For a bit of historical perspective, check out this great link, which shows pictures of Park Avenue in Manhattan in 1922, both before and after the street was completely reconfigured to accommodate vehicles. As hard as it is to believe now, Park Avenue did actually once have a park!
Especially here in the auto-centric United States, we’ve come to be complacent about the large tracts of land we have handed over towards automobiles, but one day every year, we are reminded of what life might be like if we reclaim just a small portion of that pavement and return it to the people, in the form of green open space. That day is, of course, (Park)ing Day, in which cities all across the country and the world take over parking spots, lay down some grass, and set up a mini-park to be enjoyed and savored, if only for one day. This year, (Park)ing Day was this past Friday.
Here is one such (park)ing spot at the corner of Fulton and Larkin, right across from the park in front of San Francisco City Hall:
The theme for this particular park(ing) spot was sustainable roofing, so there was a solar panel in the northwest corner of the mini-park:
They were even a couple cute little fuzzy chicks wandering around in a cage:
They were quite friendly and did not mind that I took their picture.
While mingling at the park(ing) spot, I spoke with Jim Warshell, who is getting signatures for a petition to turn the block of Fulton Street between Hyde and Larkin into a permanent park. This strange block of Fulton has a wide street with the monument in the center, and very little car traffic, because on the east end, Fulton dead-ends at United Nations Plaza, and on the west end, Fulton dead-ends at the Civic Center Plaza park in the front of City Hall. The block is mostly just used for on-street parking and as an easy place for tour buses to stop while their passengers take photos. Closing this block off to cars and turning it into a park would provide a nice link between Civic Center Plaza and UN Plaza. If you are interested in this petition, Jim can be reached at jimwarshell [at] yahoo [dot] com. Please address the email with subject line “Re: Pioneer Monument to Park.”