Public places

Taking back the city: one (parking) bay at a time

Parking Day_20150918_ Lisa Burnell (15)

Parking bays in Cape Town’s CBD take up almost three football fields in public space. That’s a lot of prime real estate to offer to stationary vehicles. How could the same space be used more efficiently International PARK(ing) Day participants ask. On 18 September 2015 Cape Town residents took up the challenge and Alex Jongens was there.

PARK(ing) Day in Harrington Street started off fighting the southeaster. Besides the ping-pong table, nothing else could withstand the gusts. We drowned our sorrows with a New York Bagel and started setting up PARK(ing) Day INSIDE 75 Harrington Street: Greenpop trees, deck chairs, bean bags and all. Luckily, just before lunch the wind subsided enough for us to set up our people-bay. Within five minutes of placing comfy seats outside, we had a bunch of school kids on their way to the station take over the bay.

With Julian Wenn providing perfectly chilled tunes, a bunch of Capetonians spent their lunch hour on Harrington Street. The music was enjoyed by workers from over the road as well as the City Sightseeing bus that came past every half hour. And then there was the amazing moment when Brad Baard ‘drove up’ in his car testing out one of next year’s Cape Town Carnival props.

Many people think PARK(ing) Day is just an opportunity to slack off outside and enjoy the sunshine. It is more than that. PARK(ing) Day highlights the need to redefine how public space is used; to re-evaluate the allocation of public space between cars and people; and the need for people to have a comfortable space to pause on their way through the city. As Marcela Guerrero Casas, co-founder and managing director of Open Streets Cape Town, says:

We need to think how we re-utilise this space (parking bays) and this (PARKing Day) is a creative and interactive way of doing so.

Social connections made while in public space is underrated. The mash up of people who moved through the space during the day was remarkable. “You get into conversations that you wouldn’t normally have,” added sustainable transport specialist, researcher, writer and streets enthusiast Lisa Kane.

The need for PARK(ing) Day and other pedestrian focused initiatives was highlighted by the behaviour of motorists using Harrington Street. Speeding is the norm; overtaking too. Delivery vehicles double park instead of shifting slightly down the road making it safer for people. There are no pedestrian crossings on Harrington Street resulting in people taking the gap whenever they can. A low moment was when a motorist got very angry with a trader who was pushing his trolley down the road. Sadly the motorist was a man in an EMS (Emergency Medical Services) uniform, someone whose job it is to save lives.


PARK(ing) Day 2015 on Harrington Street was a collaborative effort by Open Streets Cape Town75 Harrington Street, Shift, Knobs & Tassels, Cape Town Partnership, Greenpop and Julian Wenn. Other PARK(ing) Day activations took place in Bellville where the Greater Tygerberg Partnership and Nal’ibali converted a bay into a library; Future Cape Town set up in Regent Street, Sea Point, and GAPP Architects in Longmarket Street.


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