For many years, I covered the madness at the shopping malls the day after Thanksgiving, never paying much attention to the parking lots.
But judging from a social media campaign by the Brainerd nonprofit Strong Towns, there is plenty of parking for shoppers all over North America — even on Black Friday, one of the busiest retail days of the year.
Too much, according to the group, which advocates for smart planning.
For the third year, Strong Towns encouraged its followers to post parking lot photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #blackfridayparking. The resulting footage documented a lot of asphalt. A ton, actually.
The point of the campaign is to push policies that eliminate minimum parking standards that many towns and cities require when new commercial projects are built, according to Strong Towns’ Communications Specialist Rachel Quednau.
These policies, she says, result in asphalt dead zones that hug shopping centers and strip malls all over. “Even some bowling alleys had to have a certain amount of parking spaces depending on the number of lanes,” she said.
What struck me was the depressing sameness of the lots in the photos, even those with ringed with palm trees.
Although the issue of minimum parking requirements is a serious one, the #blackfridayparking posts were often humorous and featured pics from New York to Los Angeles, even Canada.
“Anybody up for some flag football, go kart racing, track meet? Plenty of room at the mall today N.J.” posted one.
My favorite photo featured someone in a camp chair intently reading Leigh Gallagher’s tome, “The End of the Suburbs: Where the American Dream is Moving,” which documents how more people are moving back to cities, reversing a decades-long shift to the burbs.
The reader is, of course, surrounded by a sea of empty parking spots.