Parklets: “transforming parking spaces to people spaces”

A Parklet is a pavement extension that provides more space and amenities for people using the street. Usually parklets are installed on parking spaces and may use several parking spaces together or separately.  Parklets typically extend out from the pavement at the level of the pavement to the width of the adjacent parking space.

Starting in San Francisco in 2005 by taking advantage of a legal loophole in the city, where there are no restrictions on what you can do in a parking space as long as you pay, the designers from Rebar fed a parking meter with coins, unrolled grass turf, and set up a park bench and potted tree. Through a simple, 2-hour intervention, they transformed an ordinary parking space into a tiny public park.

It’s interesting to see that Bath and North Somerset Council are advertising a tender to install 2 parklets for Kingsmead Square, Bath, which must be “High quality, well-designed parklets required that incorporate seating and planting.”

I believe Parklets are a low cost, low risk way with the potential to address or fulfill some of the issues in many city centres.  Notably,

  • The need for good urban design and placemaking initiatives
  • Lacking in terms of environment
  • Opportunities: Improved public realm / sense of place
  • Good quality public realm & art are integral parts of the experience

Parklets can green and enliven streets, instantly adding colour, plants and enjoyment to the street and offer a place to stop, to sit, and to rest while taking in the activities of the street. It may provide greenery, art, or some other visual amenity. A parklet may accommodate bicycle parking within it, or bicycle parking may be associated with it.  Currently, the cost of planning permission and a tables and chairs license may make an application prohibitive in many local authorities. 

They can be associated with a business and may form part of their tables and chairs licence; an extension of that business. A parklet may be thought of as permanent but must be designed for quick and easy removal for emergencies without damage to the curb or street.   

In Hackney, London, the council has declared, “The aspiration of our transport strategy is to transform Hackney’s places and streets into the most attractive and liveable neighbourhoods in London. However, this can only be achieved by reducing the dominance of private motor vehicles, both in terms of traffic and congestion on our roads and managing excessive parking on our streets”.

While we can sometimes go too far in taking the traffic out of streets, in many there are a cluster of food and drink outlets facing the street that could benefit from the use of a licensed Parklet.  I’m sure more will follow.

2 thoughts on “Parklets: “transforming parking spaces to people spaces”

  • Aylesbury Garden Town trialled a pop-up parklet in October 2019 and have just closed a Design a Parklet Competition that will see the winning entry worked up into a design for Aylesbury. We will be installing three parklets in the summer of 2020 as we see them as a way for communities to come together, a place to stop and rest and a great way to visibly encourage more people to consider how spaces for cars might become shared spaces that benefit the community.

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