Pedestrians get a place to park off

The Cape Town branch of Gapp Architects and Urban Designers has recently created a parklet outside its offices in Longmarket Street. It did this to announce a merger with City Think Space and communicate its urban design vision of reclaiming the streets.

Made of wood and yellow pipes, it offers seating for pedestrians, bicycle racks and a couple of plants.

We tend to forget that streets are public spaces, where everyone has the right to be, not just cars. Instead of equal rights being afforded to pedestrians and cyclists, single-passenger cars are king, taking up prime city space and pushing the rest to the margins of the pavements.

A parklet is a street furniture installation that transforms a parking bay for a car into a park-off spot for people. The New York Times has estimated that since 2010, more than 120 parklets have popped up around the world.

This one is different to other parklets in that no parking bay was actually lost – Gapp Architects worked with the city to reshuffle the parking bays and a loading zone.

Cars may soon have to start relinquishing their privileges as more community-driven initiatives like Open Streets – which saw Bree Street closed off to cars on Sunday, January 18 – and the monthly Midnight Mass, in which cyclists all take to the streets during a full moon, gain more traction.

Martin Pallmann of Gapp Architects says: “It’s about creating awareness of other road users.”

The Gapp Architects parklet is the second in the Mother City. Hipster patrons of Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room on Bree Street will be familiar with the Cameron Barnes-designed parklet that was installed there in 2012.

Of course, because it is a public space, right of admission cannot be reserved, which raises the uncomfortable issue of homeless people. The constant traffic of Clarke’s hipsters probably acts as a natural deterrent, but Pallmann is appalled that the perceived fear of homeless people might be the reason the city does not provide more park benches.

“Homeless people are part of our city context, especially in the City Bowl with its mix of people. You don’t want to cater for them, but you don’t want to drive them out either. By including them in the conversation, we’re far more likely to find a solution.”

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