This article was published in 2018, in Newsletter 137.
I used the phrase ‘people parking’ the other week, and this confused a number of people. I’ll try to explain what I mean by this.
We all know what a park is. It is an area of land which is typically open, in a natural state, and having facilities for recreation or rest. A place to wander around, sit down, watch other people also enjoying the park.
Most people know what parking a car means. It is the process of manoeuvring a motorised vehicle into a space where it will be left, either briefly or for longer. Mostly this is done either in expensive private structures, multistorey car parks, or on private land like the driveway of your home, or on public streets, for which you are either paying nothing or a small amount.
Parking a cycle is similar. Obviously the land area required to park 500 cycles is significantly less than that required to park 500 cars. And the drainage requirements are significantly easier as you don’t have to manage the the oil-polluted water draining from the bottom of cars in a cycle park. A high-capacity cycle park can be disguised as an attractive building, possibly surrounded by a hotel or shops, whereas a multi-storey car park has never been labelled as quaint.
But that still doesn’t explain what people parking is. People parking is where people park themselves. Where people can sit down and watch the world go by. Where people can just stop and enjoy the city. This is fundamentally my main problem with the new station square. It is a great place for getting a taxi, or going shopping, but it is a terrible place to park yourself. There are no benches to sit down on anywhere near the main entrance. You either have to stand up and get tired legs, or go somewhere else.
Parker’s Piece is a great people-parking location, with grass, trees and lots of activity, except that the number of formal places to sit down is very limited. There are some on the northern edge, but none on the southern edge. Admittedly, most people probably wouldn’t want to sit next to a main road with car traffic filling the air with noise and noxious fumes.
The city centre itself is actually reasonably good. There are places to sit down and watch the people walk or cycle past. In some places there are no motorised vehicles making the place untidy. We need more of the city centre like this. Obviously some parts are better than others. I don’t know many people who would prefer to sit watching people on Drummer Street compared with say Sidney Street.
We need more places for people to sit down. We need more people-parking areas. The more people parking there is, the more inviting such a place is. People feel happier when they can see other people and they know they can be seen by other people. This is what makes a vibrant place. A car park is not a vibrant place. Even a cycle park is not somewhere people go just to hang-out. We are social animals and we need our fix of social interaction, which is why we like to be in busy places where we might bump into a friend or simply enjoy the ambience of a place filled with life.
Our first ever annual report is now available for download at www.camcycle.org.uk/annualreports