A Bike Tour of Park(ing) Day in Chicago | Bleader

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Bike Tour of Park(ing) Day in Chicago

Posted By on 09.22.10 at 04:18 PM

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Park(ing) Day, an annual event that temporarily converts parking spaces to other uses—like small public parks—took place last Friday in Chicago and dozens of other cities. Since the inaugural edition, in San Francisco in 2005, the event has caught on all over the world, and this is the second year that Chicago organizations have participated. I grabbed my camera and did a bike tour of all the places I knew of with installations. They seemed to be getting pretty good response—though one of the first reactions I caught was from a cyclist passing one of the spaces on Milwaukee (pictured above), who took a look at the sod and muttered, "Why? Why? Why?" as he whizzed by.

The short answer—which I got some version of from most people I talked to—is that they wanted to make people think about how to create green space in an urban environment as well as to challenge notions of what a parking space is, what a public space is, and what it means to lease space from the city (or LAZ Parking).

The Park(ing) Day website includes accounts of a few temporary parks in other cities being shut down, but most participants I met said they had the support of their aldermen, and they all diligently paid the box, attaching their stickers to whatever was handy—though as one organizer noted, "We have no license plate so it's hard to ticket us."

More images and info after the jump; all photos by me unless otherwise noted.

Urban Habitat Chicago, an environmentally focused nonprofit group, put down sod, built a shade structure, and hauled in plants to create this space at 2323 N. Milwaukee, outside Revolution Brewing. President of the board Dave Hampton says the group participated last year but on a smaller scale—"a few plants and a bench" at Belmont and Broadway. They were planning to reuse the sod for other projects if it survived the day.

Their theme was "Plants I Know," and in addition to actual living plants there were laminated cards with stories about plants.


Draping the parking meter with sod

In three spaces at 2338 N. Milwaukee, across from Cole's Bar, nonprofit design organization Architecture for Humanity Chicago made a park out of sod and boxes left over from a summer project that similarly transformed a parking lot in Little Village. They had games, mini golf, and a yoga class and film screening in the evening.

The aforementioned bemused cyclist

Watering the sod

Architecture studio Moss Design created a space at 3552 N. Southport (in front of Southport Grocery) for the second year in a row. Matt Nardella, one of the owners of Moss Design, decided to participate last year partly because the parking meter deal had just gone down, but says "we were probably a little too ambitious." They barbecued and built a tent in addition to having sod and benches, which was "way too much work." This year they stuck to sod and potted plants donated or on loan from Lake Street Landscape, Farmer's Market Garden Center, and Grand Street Gardens, plus chairs and light refreshments.


It took up about three spaces (with one more across the street), rather than the entire block they'd originally planned, but was still one of the better-attended parks I saw. The neighborhood probably had a lot to do with that—lots of moms with little kids.

Across the street from Southport Grocery, a spot in a loading zone sponsored by the outdoor store Uncle Dan's


Organized by UIC's Urban Planning and Policy Student Association in cooperation with Alderman Mary Ann Smith's office, this valet bike park outside Cheetah Gym (5838 N. Broadway) was pretty quiet on Friday, but the students were hoping for more patrons when they returned the next day. One goal of the project was to promote the idea of on-street bike parking. Puting bike racks on the street rather than on sidewalks has been catching on recently in other cities; one advantage is that it doesn't cut into walking space for pedestrians.

A free bike wash was advertised—and delivered. Organizers said they'd washed (or wiped) two bikes so far that day.

UIC's Urban Planning and Policy Student Association created this park in four parking spaces of a lot at Halsted and Polk. I stopped by around 1 PM, and the student organizers said a lot of people had been there during lunchtime but it had since quieted down.


A student stops to see what's going on.

This space at Grand and McClurg wasn't on the official Park(ing) Day website, so I almost missed it (Matt Nardella told me about it when I stopped by the park on Southport). Put on by the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents (SOAR), it offered a beanbag toss and free water.


I didn't take this picture (it's from the SOAR website), but it's one of my favorite photos of the day. There weren't many people at this park when I stopped by—the location isn't the best for inspiring people to to linger—but apparently when the businessmen do stop, they get pretty into it.

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