The storage of private cars on expensive public land is coming under increasing scrutiny around the world as communities look for ways to make their streets liveable again.
Streets once alive with people and merchants — children playing, bikes riding, people promenading, traders plying — over time degraded into traffic sewers, optimised for moving vehicles at unfriendly speeds.
The interface with the kerb, where movement and place intersect, was colonised for motor vehicle storage.
Now, in order to get life back into streets, including humans on bikes, car parking is in retreat.
Major cities, from Paris to Madrid to Melbourne, have realised that not only is road space very expensive to provide, construct and maintain, just to park cars on, but it blocks the use of the road space for much more economically important functions, such as access to jobs and education.
Sometimes the reduction is barely noticeable — a little each year for many years. In other cases it is a quick, dramatic and controversial shift.
In either case the result is the same: a boost to environmental amenity and commercial activity. No-one ever invites the parked cars back.
This dynamic is a constant in the battle to decongest and revitalise our streets by adding infrastructure for bikes: people resist the idea of swapping parking for any other use until you do it.
Later, they wonder why they ever opposed it.
So, how do we get from there to here?
Bicycle Network gets the ball rolling with a forum on parking next week at our Melbourne office featuring a panel of industry experts.
The most important thing is to get the discussion started on how streets are changing already.
And look into the future to understand what we will require of streets in five, ten and 20 years.
Of course private on-street car parking will have a role where it can be justified.
But it should be competing on a level playing field with all the other potential uses.
Forum event: is car parking a waste of space?
Wednesday 17 April 6:00pm – 8:00pm
Bicycle Network, level 4 246 Bourke Street, Melbourne
The forum is free for Bicycle Network members. Entry for non-members is $10.99 which can also be put towards a Bicycle Network membership.
Bicycle Network’s offices are of course bike friendly. Please feel free to bring your bike in with you and use our bike parking space.Register here