Seminar #16: Parking: Making space for modal shift.

Date: 15th April 2021, 12.30 – 14.00

There are an estimated 11.3 million parking spaces in the UK, cumulatively taking up a land area the size of Birmingham and despite multiple demands on urban space, many cities are continuing to expand parking provision. In addition to taking space that could be used for alternative purposes, such as the provision of parks and public open space, expanding parking, like expanding roads, can also be understood as inducing their demand.

Whilst city authorities have historically been reluctant to discuss the reallocation of urban space away from motor vehicles, there is increasing recognition of the necessity of doing so as the environmental, social and health benefits are being evidenced.

In the 16th event in our Sustainable Transport Futures seminar series, we provided space to speakers to discuss how this reallocation can be achieved.

Presentation 1: Camilla Dottini, Landscape architect, Arup

Camilla’s presentation was on Fitz Park, a parklet in central London created through the transformation of a delivery bay on a busy urban street, that demonstrates how small spaces can be adapted to provide people-friendly uses, promote health and wellbeing and encourage people to spend more time outdoors. 

The importance of street space has been demonstrated during the pandemic and will only become more important as by 2030 London’s population is expected to reach 10 million, streets will be busier and the provision of high-quality multifunctional space will become more of a necessity. This change in space will also need to reflect the changing demographics of the city and provide space for the needs of both a younger and older population.

The location of the Fitz Park was chosen through conversations with partners and in close proximity to an ARUP office, and was installed for 6 months and supported by the Mayor of London. Monitoring of the parklet has included how people use both the park and the space around the park, showing how the delivery bay which the parklet replaced was initially stopping people from crossing the street but once the parklet was installed people were able to cross the road more freely.  An ecology survey was also undertaken to identify the wildlife attracted to the parklet. Due to its success, the Fitz Park period has extended to 18 months and more parklets have been installed.

Presentation 2: Scott Cain, CEO, Active Things

Active Things is a start-up that builds digital tools to help people ride bikes, run, and do active things outdoors. Currently Active Things are trying to solve the problem of secure cycle parking on demand. Inspired by Charles Montgomery’s work on the ‘happy city’, the ethos of their work is that moving by our own power – walking, cycling, and running, for example – makes us happier. Active Things has recently launched an app for cycle parking, which helps you find where you can park your cycle in a city as well as plan journeys. As part of the project they are investing in and providing secure cycle storage

Presentation 3: Rachel Lee, Living Streets

Rachel spoke about her work on pavement parking with Living Streets, the national charity for walking, and provided an update on their national campaign to get pavement parking banned. Pavement parking is one of the greatest challenges for walking in cities, forcing pedestrians into oncoming traffic, damaging pavements, and removing space for people who use mobility aids or people pushing prams and walking with children.

Rachel gave an overview of the different kinds of legislation that have been implemented to try to ban or limit pavement parking over the past 50 years and provided an update on the current situation within England as well as highlighting the impact of Brexit on slowing down the process.

Presentation 4: Harrie Larrington-Spencer, Researcher, Healthy Active Cities & Matthew Jackson, Consultant in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine, Stockport NHS Foundation Trust

In their presentation, Harrie and Matthew discussed their recent opinion piece published online by the British Medical Journal in which they outlined why free parking in hospitals is not caring for staff, but rather exacerbates inequalities, reinforces and subsidises unsustainable levels of private car use, and is considered a reward for sacrifice rather than problematising working conditions that require sacrifice.

Instead Harrie and Matt propose a paradigm shift, in which we should work towards a health service where those who care are also cared for, while simultaneously modelling healthy, environmentally friendly behaviour.  A caring health system would place staff and patient health and wellbeing at the centre of policy decisions and promote improved public transport and active travel options to achieve this.