An introspective, retrospective look at PARK(ing) Day.

Seattle residents relaxing in red chairs on a past PARK(ing) Day in a parking space usually reserved for cars. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr

Summary

PARK(ing) Day didn’t take place last Friday in Seattle – another example of how COVID-19 continues to impact communities worldwide. 

PARK(ing) Day began as a grassroots movement, but has grown creatively year after year across the world.

It has inspired conversations and partnership with Seattle communities, and some ideas have had long-term effects on our cityscape. 

This year, Stay Healthy Streets and Blocks, along with Keep Moving Streets, have enabled some of the same kind of community-building and creative use of space we’ve seen on past PARK(ing) Days. 

We’re collecting public life data that will help guide future decisions about the design and use of our shared public spaces. 


This year’s PARK(ing) Day (which would have normally taken place on Friday, September 18) finds us all at a significant turning point – a watershed moment.  

Community members sitting in a parking spot, reimagined as an outdoor patio, in 2013 on PARK(ing) Day in Seattle. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

COVID-19 is still deeply impacting our livelihoods, families, local businesses, and more. As a result, PARK(ing) Day in Seattle as we have known it for years – the third Friday of September, where communities physically reimagine parking spots as gardens, parks, and more  –  didn’t take place.  

Instead, we’re taking a look back at what has worked well on past PARK(ing) Days so that we can positively change our future cityscape. 

PARK(ing) Day began as a grassroots movement to rethink and repurpose our public spaces. On the third Friday of every September, people temporarily transform parking spots into “people spaces” that allow our society to reclaim public space usually reserved for cars for people to walk, bike, play, and relax. 

From sustainable garden patches, to native plant life installations, to art exhibits; think of it as a DIY micro park where the lines of the parking spaces are the limit. Since then, it’s become a global event with profound social, economic, and environmental impacts. 

Colorful construction on PARK(ing) Day 2013. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr

The conversations we have about public space surrounding PARK(ing) Day last longer than one day, too. 

Leading up to the third Friday of September, we work in partnership with you and your neighbors to support your ideas to reimagine parking spots with safety installations and equipment. 

As a result, there have been long-term effects on our cityscape. 

A parklet in Seattle. Photo Credit: SDOT Flickr. 

The idea for parklets and parking space vendings actually came from previous PARK(ing) Day ideas that community members found worthwhile. We now offer them alongside our business enhancement program that allows businesses to set up sidewalk cafés, tables and chairs, merchandise displays, awnings, and more. We’ve continued working with these same principles since COVID-19 began (read on)!

In light of COVID-19, lessons learned from past PARK(ing) Days are playing a huge role in designing new policy to creatively reimagine the public realm in serving all residents and businesses. We have taken measures to ensure you can still enjoy the outdoors and move safely while remaining physically distant.  

Enjoying a ride along a Keep Moving Street in Seattle. Photo Credit: Jeanne Clark. 
  • We established Stay Healthy Streets and Blocks, Keep Moving Streets, and Stay Together Streets to allow people to exercise, play, and move around their neighborhoods while staying safe and physically distancing.  
  • We’ve also been offering Temporary Permits that allow people to set up outdoor cafes in their neighborhood, sell merchandise and vend food.  

Soon, we’ll will be going out to select street activation sites – Othello, Columbia City, Capitol Hill, Ballard, Pioneer Square, & Lake City – to collect public life data on how people are using these newly reimagined spaces.  

With people-centered information—for instance, how many people are there, their ages and gender, and what types of activities they engage in—we can better understand the use and value of these people spaces. As we serve you and your community during the COVID-19 response and recovery, this will help to guide future decisions about the design and use of our shared public spaces. 

So, even though we’re not hosting one full day of events around these opportunities – we are creating many ways (now more important than ever) to reimagine space normally reserved for cars.  

While PARK(ing) Day marks a time for temporary closures of parking spaces, it also opens up those same spaces to endless possibilities that can have lasting positive effects.