How Accessible are Parklets?

Authors: Hanife Vardi Topal*, New Jersey Institute Of Technology
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: public space, accessibility, parklet
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Delaware A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Over the last decade in U.S cities, a new type of public space has emerged immediately adjacent to the sidewalk. They are parklets: small platforms, taking up two or three parking spaces, built as extensions of the sidewalk and flush with it. These spaces increase the amount of public space that is easily accessible to pedestrians without requiring significant financial investment. City governments work in partnership with shops and cafes, local institutions and other organizations, in the creation and management of parklets. These local partners often assume the financial responsibilities for the design, construction, and management of parklets to create a public space that is open to everyone for no cost. Surprisingly, however, the accessibility of parklets is compromised in several ways. Often furnished with seating and immediately facing a café that maintains them, they appear to some as extensions of those cafés, hence requiring a purchase from the café. The required signage announcing their public nature is often small and not easily visible. Site-specific rules adopted by the local partner managing the parklet may further limit its accessibility. This paper examines cases of parklets and the city programs governing them in San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles to discover how particular features may limit, or encourage, their accessibility.

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