Tactical Urbanism: Guerilla Action or Innovative Strategy?

beth-circle-head Beth Heller

“Parklets,” a.k.a parking spaces that are temporarily converted into mini-parks, “chair-bombs” built from recycled materials in inhospitable spaces with the goal of inviting community, and even homemade traffic signs placed by concerned parents in school zones: these are examples of tactical urbanism. The term, coined in 2010, is a catch-all for an array of inexpensive, temporary changes to a community’s built environment (roads, sidewalks, public plazas and green spaces) with a goal to improve quality of life.  One of the key goals of tactical urbanism is to make the process of urban planning, usually managed by city councils and city planners, relatable and engaging for members of the community.


Green Bay is not immune to the trend.  This Saturday’s Open Streets will temporarily transform a portion of downtown into an “alternative transportation zone,” with the goal of demonstrating the power of walkable and bikeable streets to connect citizens and increase economic activity.  The food trucks that park outside the Brown County Library each Friday provide another example of pop-up planning.

While these kinds of activities cannot  immediately fix long term problems that are baked into our cities’ infrastructures, they are increasingly recognized for what they are able to achieve.  First, they demonstrate the power of disruptive thinking in a risk-free way. Tactical urbanism takes chances and test theories in a way that urban planning commissions cannot.  It helps test hypotheses (e.g. Does slowing the traffic at a perceived pedestrian pain point actually reduce accidents? Will adding a temporary green space to an urban desert increase social connectivity?).  And because they are temporary, they must be affordable on a shoestring budget, which encourages sustainable thinking in terms of materials and methods.

Next week we’ll share a sneak preview of an upcoming experiment in tactical urbanism being planned by one of our community partners, and provide a real-life example of disruptive thinking.  Have you witnessed an act of tactical urbanism in your neck of the woods?


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