On 15 September, Barcelona hosted a new edition of Park(ing) Day, a global event framed within European Mobility Week that aims to call for urban models that focus on the environment and people. In the Catalan capital, the initiative is coordinated by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) and Espai Ambiental Cooperativa, in collaboration with EIT Urban Mobility and the Barcelona City Council.
During Park(ing) Day, public car parks are transformed into gardens, pop up exhibition stands and other alternative uses of public space to promote a healthier, more sustainable and accessible urban and transport model that reduces the space allocated to private cars. This year's edition was partially held, as the activities planned for the afternoon had to be cancelled due to rain.
The initiative, which has been held in Barcelona since 2013, also aims to highlight the impact of urban planning on health and the need to take urgent measures to prevent the consequences of urban pollution. "Air pollution is the environmental factor with the greatest impact on human health, and in cities the greatest burden of pollution comes from motorised traffic. Barcelona is the sixth European city with the highest mortality rate linked to air pollution, so there is an urgent need to rethink urban planning to protect the health of the population," says Pamela Blanche, science communicator at ISGlobal.
Reclaiming public space from cars
This year's Park(ing) Day was attended by 75 organisations who reserved a total of 126 parking spaces with a wide range of installations on themes such as sustainable mobility, climate change, eco-feminism, gardening and urban planning. The participating organisations offered a wide range of workshops, talks and information spaces for all ages. Some schools and institutes also took part in the initiative, such as the Fort Pius secondary school in the Eixample district, whose students presented a project on air quality in the neighbourhood.
Fourth year ESO students from the Fort Pius secondary school measuring noise levels in Barcelona.
"Park(ing) Day aims to reflect on public space and reclaim its value. It is a great opportunity to create meeting spaces, stimulate debate and share knowledge on sustainable mobility, climate action and urban planning," says Raül Toran, Outreach Manager at ISGlobal.
Climate shelters, the focus of Park(ing) Day 2023
Climate change affects the whole planet, but there are places where the rise in temperature caused by human activity is even more pronounced. Large cities are one example. For this reason, this year's Park(ing) Day focused on raising awareness on extreme temperatures and the importance of having a wide network of climate shelters to protect us. Among the activities proposed around the climate shelters were educational workshops on the urban heat island phenomenon, citizen science proposals and activities to interact with heat measuring instruments.
"The idea of the Park(ing) Day focusing on climate shelters is to give value and visibility to these spaces, because we found that until recently many people were not aware of what they are. This summer's extreme temperatures have shown that these spaces are more necessary than ever and that they need to be suitable and accessible to the whole population," says Toran.
Photo: Barcelona City Council This article has been written by Mònica Ubalde , postdoctoral researcher, and Carolyn Daher ,...Research, Policy & Global Development, Urban Planning, Environment and Health 29.10.2019