Swapping Parking Spaces for Pocket Parks

Citizens of The Hague can swap their cars in exchange for an urban oasis on their empty parking space. The city government is funding the project to eventually convince people to give up on their private vehicle for good.

What is your car doing when you are not driving it? It is probably parked outside your front door, occupying space. All around the world, people are already making creative uses out of parking lots. The city of The Hague is taking it a step further by offering citizens in Segbroek, a suburb in the west of the city, to turn their parking spot into an urban park for six months.

Turning a parking lot into a temporary green space during Park(ing) Day

The project is funded with €60,000 — money that is meant to pay for storing the vehicles in car parks during the six month trial period. As good as it sounds, not everybody is happy. “The idea got a lot of backlash from citizens,” says Walter Dresscher, the initiator of the project. Some urbanites are still heavily attached to their cars. While swapping is voluntarily, it seems that citizens are taking the right to have a parking lot for granted.

There is a lot you can do with a free parking lot. Here the DeBatMobile was set up to engage with citizens about urban concerns

As cities are getting more dense, owning a private vehicle will not be possible for urban dwellers in the future. Adding some more green to the streets of The Hague is a nice side-effect, but the project’s aim goes way beyond that. Walter Dresscher, who works for the city government, explains that the citizens who participate will give car-sharing, public transport and biking a chance. Dresscher wonders whether this bottom-up approach will work or if top-down policy that manages car parking is still needed. Regardless of the outcome, whilst relaxing in their own pocket park, residents might come to the realization that living in an urban environment doesn’t need to go hand in hand with car ownership.