17. Report from Parking Day in Dortmund, Germany_TMBTP

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This Must Be The Place In this episode of This Must Be The Place Elizabeth reports from the Rhine-Ruhr region of Germany. The area’s recent history is famously characterised by industry – coal, steel, cars – and its present by post-industrial restructuring and by new forms of tourism. The introduction to the podcast includes some soundscapes from the Ruhr Museum, housed in the Zollverein, a former coal works near Essen. The Rhine-Ruhr is a huge urban agglomeration and while the public transport facilities are far better than in Melbourne, it is also home to a large and growing number of cars. Car parking amply lines most streets and, in a special twist, when they can’t find a parking spot the locals are very comfortable parking cars all over the footpaths too. This podcast reports on the local Dortmund installment of “Park(ing) Day”, held September 16th as “an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks”. The broader goal is to critically reflect on the amounts of urban public space allocated to stationary cars. This year, in Dortmund’s first Parking Day. the German Transport Club (VCD) (Dortmund-Unner) and local community initiative “Open Answers” paid the meters for 5 parking spaces on Kaiserstrasse, a popular inner suburban street. They installed a drawing and art table, cake stand, games, seating, posters, and a car wrapped up in bed sheets (!). People stopped by to discuss and question, or to participate in activities. In the podcast Elizabeth speaks with Christian Lamker of TU Dortmund and a member of the VCD about how the event went. On Kaiserstrasse around 80% of the street is parking. There are some nice trees – although one resident not only didn’t like the parking day event taking parking space from cars, but also suggested that the trees too ought to be removed to make room for more parking. Others stopping by took the opportunity to suggest ideas for the street involving more greenery, seating, or space for children. In a dramatic twist, the police turned up – someone had called to complain about people using parking spaces. The police advised that under German law, only cars are allowed in parking spaces, so the tables and activities had to be packed up. (The decorated car was allowed to stay). Next year the group plans to try Parking Day again, with a larger and more planned event. They will probably apply for permission as a political demonstration - I think that’s the more feasible way for people to use car space legally in Germany. Meanwhile in the cities of the Rhine-Ruhr, parking on the footpaths continues unabated. You gotta park all those cars somewhere.

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