Aucklanders, reclaim our streets!

Sep 10, 2022
Aucklanders, reclaim our streets!

Bike Auckland

Photo of people having a picnic in a carpark

In this blog, we explore what World Parking Day is and how Aucklanders can get involved. 

UPDATE 2023: This year’s Park(ing) Day is Friday the 15th, though activations may carry on over the weekend too! You can also read this blog for more on car parks, and to hear about Bike Auckland’s own Park(ing) activations for World Car Free day in 2022

“We have expensive housing for people and free parking for cars. We have our priorities the wrong way around… We are killing our cities.” 

This quote from UCLA urban planning professor Donald Shoup summarises the state of urbanism in nations like the US and New Zealand well. In these countries, for roughly seventy years, many cities have been planned with the car – not people – in mind. A key part of car-centric city design is plentiful car park availability. 

On-street car parks take up vital and limited space that could be better used for bus/cycle lanes or public spaces like outdoor dining, art and seats to rest and connect. Off-street parking takes up large swathes of rare urban property that could be better used for dense mixed-use developments or revitalising town centres. 

The former 6 Clonbern Avenue two-level car park in Remuera in 2019. The top-level has since been demolished and the site will become a mixed used development in the future. Image via Auckland Council. 

Car parks are a hot topic in Auckland right now. In April, Auckland Transport (AT) suggested repurposing on-street parking on 3% of Auckland’s roads to add more bus/cycle lanes, bike parks and T2/T3 lanes. AT’s Parking Strategy brought the strong pro-car feelings of many Aucklanders to the surface.

Through meaningful activations, like Parking Day, we can highlight the better, safer uses for our limited street space than idle cars. 

What is Parking Day, you ask? Across the globe, on the third Friday in September every year, parking spaces are repurposed. Car parks are converted into parks, social spaces, dining rooms, art installations, health clinics, wedding venues, free bike repair shops and even foosball table equipped lounges.

Image from our future cities Twitter

Streets are reimagined as safer, greener and more equitable spaces. Parking Day is an exciting way to engage with urbanism, and to advocate for people-centric city design.

The first ever Parking Day installation in 2005. Image via My Park(ing) Da

The hope is that Parking Day will emphasise the need to improve the quality of urban spaces and empower people to get involved in changing their community for the better. Auckland is in dire need of urban enhancement, and it will require grassroots community members – like you – to improve our home. 

Parking Day is happening in New Zealand on Friday 16 September. Officially though, the global event runs from the 16 – 18 September, so if you’re busy on Friday, do your mahi on the weekend instead. We need people and groups to step up and get the ball rolling with Parking Day in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Together, we can prove to pro-car Aucklanders that our streets have more fun uses than car parks.

A Panmure car park repurposed into a whakairo (carving) studio as part of Parking Day 2018. Image via Fresh Concept. 

Auckland-based creative agency Fresh Concept turned Panmure parking spaces into whakairo (carving) studios in 2018 and a Henderson car park into a coffee shop in 2019. 

For those who want to get involved, the Parking Day founders have created an easy step-by-step guide for converting car parks. It is best to choose a metered parking space, and to pay for it for as long as you are there. You should make defined boundaries around your parking space, to keep everyone safe. Be prepared to kōrero as well, as users of your installation, passers-by or drivers looking for a park will likely chat with you. 

With a particular kiwi flair, we want to see as creative car park conversions as possible. If you have a big idea that may need some extra hands, contact your local Bike Burb or other community groups to see if they can lend you a hand. But we encourage any and all Parking Day installations, big and small, creative and simple. For inspiration, see the official Parking Day 2021 video.

A Henderson car park repurposed into a coffee shop as part of Parking Day 2019. Image via Fresh Concept.

We can’t wait to see what Auckland has to offer for Parking Day 2022. Don’t forget to tag @BikeAKL plus @parkingday in any social media posts of your car park conversions and use the official hashtags #parkingday2022 #reclaimthestreets. 

Auckland, reclaim our streets on Friday 16 September!

Here are some fun examples from Wellington where they do “picnics in parks” as a fun activist statement all year round, not just on parking day:

Join us

Bike Auckland is the non-profit organisation working to improve things for people on bikes. We’re a people-powered movement for a better region. We speak up for you – and the more of us there are, the stronger our voice!

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