Tactical Urbanism - Core Insights

John Pattison
John Pattison

Strong Towns encourages a simple, four-step process for public investment:

  1. Humbly observe where people in the community struggle.
  2. Ask the question: What is the next smallest thing we can do right now to address that struggle?
  3. Do that thing. Do it right now.
  4. Repeat.

Tactical urbanism can play a crucial role in Step 3 of this process.  It's a method for quickly and affordably making small-scale changes to your city, and typically takes place in public spaces like streets, parks, and sidewalks. The concept was named by Streets Plan Collaborative, which has published multiple "Tactical Urbanism Guides" (a very valuable and free resource).

Tactical urbanism might look like putting cones up on a busy street to demarcate a bike lane. It might involve sticking hay bales or planters around the edge of a street corner, to decrease the amount of space between two sides of the street and make crossing safer for people on foot. Tactical urbanism could be the simple act of putting a bench down next to a bus stop.

It's all about making cities and towns a little better, easier, safer, and more economically productive for everyone who lives in them.  It's about not waiting around for a traffic study or big federal grant to come through before you do something, but simply taking action right here, right now, with whatever tools you have on hand, to make your town stronger.


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1 comment

  • Comment author
    Kyle Buckner

    How do you do Step 2 for a raised crossing? There is a park near my house that is difficult/unsafe to reach from the west due to a busy road. There is a crosswalk but no traffic lights to allow for a walk sign. I think the solution is a raised crossing to slow drivers and make crossing less treacherous without disrupting the flow of traffic.


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