Macedonians take to Twitter to expose parking offences

People living in Skopje, Macedonia have been using the hashtag #PublicSpace to share images of un-neighborly behavior in the areas where they live.
People living in Skopje, Macedonia have been using the hashtag #PublicSpace to share images of un-neighborly behavior in the areas where they live.

Tired of seeing parked cars blocking sidewalks, pedestrian zones and crosswalks, people in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, have launched an online campaign to get local authorities to put a stop to this antisocial behaviour.

In Skopje, it’s hard to find a parking spot. So many drivers impinge on sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk around their parked vehicles and into the middle of the street.

On April 16, someone living in Skopje decided to launch the hashtag #ЈавенПростор (#PublicSpace) on Twitter to put pressure on the authorities to act, according to the website Global Voices Online, which wrote about this campaign.

"I am launching the hashtag #PublicSpace and I’ll let the photos speak for themselves,” he said in his tweet (below), which included a series of photos showing cars parked on sidewalks.

Many people joined in the campaign and it quickly garnered attention across both the local and international press. Skopje Smog Alarm, a pollution watchdog, also joined forces with the campaign.

Translation: "There’s no #PublicSpace available in our country.”

Translation (summary) : "Are people with disabilities supposed to fly?”

Translation: "’#PublicSpace in Kisela Voda [Editor’s note: one of ten municipalities that make up Skopje]".

Translation: "#PublicSpace in Nikola Parapunov Street in Karpos 4 [Editor’s note: A neighbourhood in Skopje]".

Translation: "A small contribution to #PublicSpace".

Translation (summary): "No worries, patients will find a way. #PublicSpace".

People also started posting photos of restaurants that sprawl over the entire sidewalk.

Translation (summary): "On the right is a street. A big open space for cars. On the left is what’s left for everyone else. Not much.”

Translation: "Question for the city and the Minister of the Interior: 1. What would happen if the restaurant took up 100% of the street instead of 100% of the sidewalk? 2. How much time would it take you to remove it from the street? And why aren’t you using the same amount of time to remove it from the sidewalk? #PublicSpace".

"Security forces should punish offenders”

Ana, a 33-year-old architect who lives in Skopje, participated in the campaign. She really hopes that this online campaign will push authorities to act.

The campaign, which is about public space in Skopje and in Macedonia in general, is meant to denounce drivers who park wherever they want without thinking about pedestrians, cyclists or people in wheelchairs. So far, city governments have remained silent about these issues. This is not a new situation, but it’s gotten worse over the past few years and many different parks and pedestrian areas have turned into free parking places.

Translation of Ana’s tweet: "How can you sleep at night? [Editor’s note: Tweet addressed to the Skopje municipal government]."

In many cases, the barriers that are supposed to stop cars from parking in public spaces have even been vandalised. All we want is for the municipal government to prioritise public spaces and put in place better barriers to prevent cars from parking on sidewalks. The security forces should punish offenders. It’s not the first time that we’ve reached out to the authorities about this, but this campaign has gotten more attention than any of our past efforts.

Translation (in summary): "There are not enough police officers to hand out fines to all the cars parked on the sidewalk. They are all always super busy."

All over the world, people are using social media to highlight problems in their cities and neighbourhoods and to put pressure on the authorities to do something about it. Last year, a photographer in Senegal launched a project called "Save Dakar" on Facebook and Twitter. Each day, he published photos showing the illegal occupation of public space, the disappearance of green spaces and the deplorable sanitary conditions in the city. Last year, one of our Observers in Tehran, Iran, shared a series of photos showing how hard it is for people with disabilities to navigate the city.