Road rage looms over deck chairs in Edinburgh parking bays

Parking spaces on one of Scotland's busiest shopping streets are to be requisitioned next month by environmental campaigners for 'more constructive' uses.
A PARK(ing) Day in San Francisco. Photograph: Scott Beale/LaughingSquid.comA PARK(ing) Day in San Francisco. Photograph: Scott Beale/
A PARK(ing) Day in San Francisco. Photograph: Scott Beale/

Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) will set up temporary “pop-up parks” in bays on George Street in Edinburgh.

The Saturday event has been backed by the city council as a “fantastic reimagining of the space”, but a motoring group has angrily denounced it as a “recipe for conflict and discord”.

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People will be encouraged to decorate spaces with deck chairs, hammocks, carpets, pot plants and fake lawns.

FoES said the council had agreed to an undisclosed number of spaces being taken over between Frederick Street and Castle Street from 11am to 2pm on 16 June. It has urged people to apply to also take over parking bays in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee over the following week.

The move follows cities such as Seattle holding annual “PARK(ing) days” where parking spaces are transformed for activities such as giant chess games.

In London, car-less Hackney resident Brenda Puech unsuccessfully attempted to buy an annual parking permit to create a similar “people parking bay”.

FoES air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said parking space in Edinburgh covered an area larger than the Meadows.

She said: “Together with the public, we want to reimagine urban space.

“We want to paint a vision for a future where the private car does not dominate our cities and towns and where more of us can walk and cycle freely and safely, in an environment with cleaner air.

“We are pleased to have the support of the council for this vision. If you can think of more fun, more constructive ways to use these spaces, we’d love to hear from you.”

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City council transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “Pop-up parklets have been a great success in other cities around the world and I think this is a lovely idea to mark National Clean Air Day in the capital.

“We’re pleased to be working closely with Friends of the Earth to finalise plans for this. It promises to be a fantastic re-imagining of the space, demonstrating creative ways to make places more people-friendly, and the air cleaner.”

Kim Harding, director of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling, which the event is part of, said: “Motor vehicles are ubiquitous on our streets, so it is sometimes hard to imagine how our towns and cities could be if they weren’t there. This event will give people a chance to see what might be possible beyond car-clogged streets, and how the space might be used.”

However, the IAM RoadSmart motoring group was appalled at the plans.

Neil Greig, its Scottish-based policy and research director, said: “This looks like a recipe for conflict and discord rather than harmony and joy. FoES has to realise it is real people who want to drive into Edinburgh to enjoy the facilities and support the local economy.

“Blocking spaces with no regard for the type of car or why it might be there is just an empty gesture. It would be far better to point their efforts towards improving public transport and making buses more attractive.”