Why no Parklets, Jozi?

A city is activated through its people. Through its energy along the streets. And this energy, is sourced from the human scale – not a vehicular one.

The success of rejuvenated areas in Joburg’s CBD like Braamfontein, lies with the activation of the street edges, the spill over of live, work and play onto the sidewalks. We see pockets of spaces where people can experience the energy of the street through its edges. Why then, don’t we design our urban environment to accommodate moments of rest, pause, socializing and engagements more? Our streets are dominated by cars, both moving and parked.

How can we turn this carbon table around?

I strongly believe this city can do with a lot less parking, and a whole lot more parklets.

This urban phenomenon is not exactly fresh news – we have been talking about it for a long time now; but yet, the fire has still not caught on to Joburg? Should our recent discussions over paid parking schemes not rather be directed to the implementation of better urban strategies and a more beneficial use of parking space? Parkhurst, Braamfontein and the CBD, all the areas flagged by the City for the parking schemes recently, already have the activity and energy to support a Parklet over Parking scheme.

Take that shoddy parking space with (mostly) aggressive parking ‘attendees’, and replace tarmac with a tiny public park – Voila! Le Parklet!

In an urban environment containing tarmac roads, harsh sidewalks, and brick buildings, a parklet is a great initiative to invite people to sit and relax.The employment of parklets in cities around the world is another contribution to the reimagining of our urban spaces from a vehicle-orientated, to a more pedestrian- orientated one. Usually inclusive of greenery, seating space and sometimes bike racks, the parklet is owned and managed by local businesses or even government entities.

San Francisco Parklet (Source: www.sanfransicoize.com)

San Francisco Parklet (Source: www.sanfransicoize.com)




Parklets (www.oaklandnet.com)

We can look to cities like San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York for good examples of implementation. In addition to it being very functional, it is a creative way of allowing citizens to engage more with their city.

Last year, I was thrilled to see the parklet model being applied on Cape Town’s streets. Albeit its short life span (as part of Creative Week Cape Town), it was a great display of a new way of thinking about our urban streets.

(Source: www.spill.co.za)

(Source: www.spill.co.za)


(Source: www.spill.co.za)

(Source: www.spill.co.za)

So, Jozi, why are we so scared to let go of our parking spots? It’s time to hold hands with your city in small but bold and creative ways. Lets play with Le Parklets!





There are 2 comments

  1. Sean Dayton

    Parklets are great – they offer the possibility to pause, take in the sunshine and the fresh air without getting in the way of moving pedestrians on the pavement. But from what I’ve experienced in Joz, the problem isn’t so much the lack of parklets as it is the lack of areas with any outdoor life at all.

    Places like Parkhurst and Gleneagles Road in Greenside work so well because the buildings are built close to the street, the pavements are wide, and the buildings that line the streets are all at least two storeys in height. This creates what James Howard Kunstler calls the “outdoor room” effect which people feel comfortable with. In fact, parking on the side of the road adds to the appeal because the parked cars protect the people on the pavement from the moving cars on the street. So I don’t think the problem is the parked cars on the street so much, but the fact that there are so few places in Johannesburg that have all these other features – 2-3 storey buildings set close to the street on decently-sized pavements.

    If you drive around Sandton for instance (an area that has some pedestrian potential) notice how few of the streets even allow for parking on the side of the road. This means that if you’re walking on the pavement you have cars flying by which creates for a very unsafe, uninviting environment. Is this a zoning issue? I suspect it is, and I suspect it might also be at least partly due to the fact that many Joburgers don’t feel safe outdoors – they’d rather drive to Hyde Park shopping centre in their big (read “safe”) SUVs and experience the “public” realm all in the knowledge that centre management has kept the riffraff out and they can shop, eat, etc without worrying about getting mugged. Of course this is all a mindset – I don’t think this danger necessarily exists, and if you go to somewhere like Braamfontein you’ll see that it doesn’t have to be that way. But changing a mindset is pretty difficult…

  2. Susan Hume

    Stunning, but wouldn’t everything get stolen? Who would pick up the trash?

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