21 Aug 2020

Civil disobedience encouraged in Wellington car park spaces

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:44 pm on 21 August 2020

If you live in Wellington you might have seen a bearded man sitting in a parking space in Wellington's CBD, eating his lunch.

That was likely Alex Dyer who's part of the grassroots movement Picnics In Parks. The movement is about encouraging a rethink of how much public space is used for car parking in cities, Alex tells Jesse Mulligan.

A file photo of a parking sign

Photo: 123RF

The idea of reclaiming parking spaces originated in San Francisco and Picnics In Parks is really more a format than a group, Alex says.

Many cities already have some form of it going on and he encourages anyone interested in using public car spaces for social reclamation or physical distancing to take it up.

Alex began lunching in car parks on Wellington's Courtenay Place when part of the street was closed to through-traffic during Level 3 earlier this year.

As a cycling advocate, he believes it's time that city authorities 'walked the talk' on reducing car dependency.

"We can do much better with making use of public space in the city, for people. The ability to park private property in such highly sociable areas is quite a wasted opportunity, really."

"[Cars] are the wrong tool for 95 percent of journeys, is my opinion, and we'll do a lot better if we can find ways to get around and do things without them."

Picnics In Parks activists do pay for the car parks they occupy and only once has a passing traffic warden been "perturbed" by  Alex's set-up, which includes a table and chair he carries on his cargo bike.

"She said 'I'll get you towed.' I went 'Please do, I'd love the attention'."