Hackney parklet campaigner wins national award

Brenda Puech welcoming visitors to her 'people's parking bay' - or parklet as they are now known.

Brenda Puech welcoming visitors to her 'people's parking bay' - or parklet as they are now known. - Credit: Brenda Puech

The eco-campaigner who took back control of parking spaces in her street for the many has received an award for her contribution to the community.

Lifelong roads campaigner Brenda Puech, who lives in London Fields, was awarded the national Charles Maher award from walking charity Living Streets.

She said: “I started the campaign for parklets [tiny community spaces set up in parking bays] because I felt it was very unfair that people who don’t have cars have no rights over public spaces.

“The fact that people can now apply for a parklet is a great achievement form me.”

As reported in the Gazette, it started in 2017 when Brenda turned a parking space into a community area, complete with plants and garden furniture.

It didn’t go down well: the council took it apart as it was in violation of policy.

“What I did to correct this injustice was initially illegal,” she laughed. “It was rebellious and an act of civil disobedience. My friends though I would be arrested.”

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After they were handed hundreds of signatures in favour of keeping the parklet, town hall chiefs relented – and now even offer small grants to anyone wanting to set up their own.

But Brenda’s campaign to take back space from cars for everyone to enjoy and feel safe stretches back decades.

“When I first came to London in my 20s, I was knocked over by a car that ran a red light,” she said. “My bike was mangled and I was very badly bruised. I was shocked to find out that the driver wouldn’t face any charges or consequences, just six points on her license. She essentially got away with it.

“I was paid just £100 in compensation when I could barely walk and given bus fare. For over two months I sat on the top of the double decker bus looking down at the cars and thinking about how unfair it is.

“The system favours drivers. They are allowed to cause traffic jams and hold up buses with hundreds of people on a regular basis.

“This injustice inspired to campaign for the right of pedestrians and it has been a passion of mine for nearly 25 years now.”