Joe Urban | Sam Newberg, Urbanist

Tactical Urbanism, Better Blocks and Complete Streets

Dateline: 12:49 pm June 8, 2011 Filed under:

CNU 19 featured a presentation by Mike Lydon called “Sprawl Retrofit at the Micro Scale: Repairing in All Dimensions.” Mike Lydon is founding principal of The Street Plans Collaborative, and he discussed “tactical urbanism,” an effort to introduce urbanity in the short-term to encourage long-term changes.

For example, a neighborhood group temporarily plants trees (in pots) at a treeless commercial corner, paints bike lanes and places temporary bike racks on the street, sets out temporary sidewalk tables and chairs, or even temporary stores (a food cart, perhaps). Most “temporary” improvements can be made at little cost and in short order. They trigger a response among area residents and businesses and embrace the public realm.

Andrew Howard of The Better Block also spoke at CNU 19. He noted that his efforts to conduct tactical urbanism and make “better blocks” helped make women and children feel safe on the street, and only then is it successful. Most intriguing was his comment that it changed the language of his street from “hot” or “fast” to “beautiful.”

I can think of applications right here in my neighborhood. Why not borrow some trees for the weekend from a local nursery (good advertising for them) and “plant” them near our newest restaurants, the Angry Catfish and Busters? We don’t even need to provide outdoor seating; it is already there! Or take over the shoulder lane along Hiawatha Avenue near the light rail station by allowing parking for a day, planting trees and setting up a hot dog stand? Some tactical urbanism could make a big difference in my neighborhood and yours.

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