Although Cycling Dumfries was founded as a cycle campaign, these days we also want to support pedestrians too, particularly in the town centre, where shoppers and other people on foot should predominate.
Unfortunately, in recent years, it seems as if more and more cars have been creeping into streets like the High Street and Friars Vennel, which ought to be almost entirely pedestrianised. Without any traffic wardens any more, a few drivers have got into the habit of parking where they like. In particular, the spot outside the bakery on the Vennel – which ought to be a lovely sunny spot where people can linger and watch the world go by – has become just another parking spot
Friday 15th September was Park(ing) Day, where people around the world turn parking spaces into parks, so this gave us an idea… With the help of Cloud 9 Gallery, and Incredible Edible Dumfries, we pulled together some planters, chairs, astroturf, and a few other bits and pieces and turned this bit of pavement into a lovely pop up park.
We weren’t quite sure what to expect – whether people might think we were causing a nuisance, or just park on top of our nice ‘grass’ or simply ignore us, but in fact everyone who stopped to chat or passed was pretty positive (OK so we had a few confused drivers whose sneaky parking spot had disappeared – sorry about that! But we might have saved you a ticket).
All of the local shopkeepers seemed pretty much on board: as well as Cloud 9 keeping us well supplied with tea throughout the day, we got a loan of some flowers from Flowers on the Vennel and some sparkly butterflies from Reel Em In. The Douglas Arms chipped in with chocolate biscuits and cans of coke and a few other business owners stopped by for a chat.
Everyone agreed that illegal parking and poor driving was becoming a nuisance along the Vennel (we actually saw someone driving the wrong way down Irish Street, as well as lots of pavement parking and impatient behaviour in what is supposed to be a pedestrian space), and that they much preferred our park! There were suggestions for a tree (ideally with fruit), big planters and permanent benches, or maybe a statue. Only two people actually complained – one driver who thought it might be illegal to put up ‘no parking’ signs, even though there were already double yellow lines, and one taxi driver who claimed he was picking up a passenger, which turned out to be a bacon roll from the bakery…
Even a brief shower couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm (it helps when you have a big umbrella). We were quite sad when the time came to roll up our astroturf and slip away, returning the street to the cars – and we weren’t the only ones who were sorry to see it go
But while our popup park may have popped away again – that’s not the end of the story. Perhaps if there’s enough will, we can get some sort of parklet made permanent there. It needn’t be very elaborate, just a space to sit and chat … as we enjoyed all of Friday.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by