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A “parklet” is set up on Main Street in Brattleboro in front of Vermont Artisan Designs.


Make way for parklets

Local organizations and town install bicycle parking area in downtown Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO—Two planters and space to park six bikes — all within the space of one Main Street parking space.

Five groups unveiled a “parklet” in front of Vermont Artisan Designs on Aug. 23.

The municipality, Brattleboro Coalition for Active Transportation, Downtown Brattleboro Alliance, Tiny House Fest, and VBike banded together to purchase and install the new bike area now stationed near the corner of Main and Elliot streets.

Stephanie Bonin, executive director for the DBA, said the parklet’s purchase price came in at $2,000. She said 100 individual donors raised the funds. A $500 matching pledge helped push the fundraising over the $2,000 mark, she added.

Brattleboro is using its parklet to expand bike parking in downtown. It is mobile. The town will remove and store the structure for the winter.

Parklets expand the amenities of public spaces. They take many forms, such as seating areas or performance spaces. The National Association of City Transportation Officials offers a guide to parklets on its website.

The association notes that the structures can help close gaps in public amenities, for example, providing seating in a town that has narrow sidewalks or few green spaces.

Bonin said the choices a community makes reflects what that community stands for.

“Who we are changes and the more nimble we are, the more we can keep making the statement over again,” Bonin said.

The new bike parklet helps create space for cyclists, she continued. But it fits within the bigger picture of transportation including cars, pedestrians, and skateboarders.

Erin Maile O’Keefe, co-founder of Tiny House Fest Vermont, said the idea of the parklet made its debut locally last year at the second annual Tiny House Fest.

As people downsize their living spaces, O’Keefe said, communities are rethinking how they upsize their public spaces. She noted that Brattleboro’s town common is outside the main pedestrian area.

O’Keefe feels that parklets can serve the downtown well as a way to create more public areas in the main businesses and pedestrian district.

She said Montpelier-based architect Ward Joyce first shared the concept at the festival. Later, Joyce contacted O’Keefe and other organizers to say a parklet in his possession was for sale.

O’Keefe said Joyce’s timing was perfect. He called right after the town had received the results of its parking audit. The audit noted that the town had enough parking but needed more bike racks, she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #474 (Wednesday, August 29, 2018). This story appeared on page A1.

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