Last Friday was a day in Portland a little unlike any other. PARK(ing) Day grew out of the actions of Rebar in San Francisco almost a decade ago as a way to inform and inspire what our urban streetscape can look and function like through direct action of engaged citizens. Each year on September 20th, spaces normally used to park motionless motor vehicles are repurposed for people to enjoy with seats in the street, benches, tables, music, games, trees, flowers, art materials – all manner of outdoor amenities suited for folks looking to kill some time on a lunch break or otherwise wandering the metropolitan fabric of their city.
When one or two parking spaces are converted into a place for people, whether temporarily or permanently, it is commonly known as a parklet. Portland has several such spaces, though the Portland Business Alliance has blocked additional such spaces from being allowed permanent status in downtown. However, nobody seemed to know what to call a parklet the size of an entire city block last Friday, when a small group of urban activists unleashed the largest parklet in Portland’s history onto SW Stark st. Lead organizer and THINKurban.org founder Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman said her group had simply set out to make this year’s PARK(ing) Day PDX “bigger and better” than years past in order show how easily regular people can improve their streets any way they see fit.
As noted by Bikeportland.org, not only were there hundreds of people stopping to park their bikes and enjoy the ping-pong tables, benches, tables, and hammock, but the total impact of the mega-parklet effected far more than the space it occupied. People easily and safely crossed the street at any point they desired, as motor vehicle traffic was calmed to moving at single-digit miles per hour through the bustling block. Truly, it was the cars that looked out of place in the road – having to awkwardly maneuver to accommodate people strolling at whatever pace they desired.