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Tactical Urbanism on the rise

Tactical Urbanism on the rise

Posted by Liliana Castaño on May 01, 2014

The city painted a crosswalk and installed tennis-ball green signs, but the cars just kept on zooming through. But rather than wave a white flag, Sarah Newstok grabbed an orange one instead.

The Memphis mother of three zip-tied some recycled plastic shrubbery pots to the signposts on either side of McLean Boulevard and filled them with brightly colored traffic flags. On each bucket is a laminated sign: "Use a flag to help you cross."

And voila! She'd committed an act of "tactical urbanism."

The trend, which started out as a guerrilla movement but has increasingly gone mainstream across America and globally, can involve something as simple as the corrugated plastic speed limit signs going up around New York City or as large as a "pop-up 'hood" of rehabbed shipping containers to demonstrate the viability of a worn-out Salt Lake City neighborhood.

The main criteria for an act of tactical urbanism are that it be simple, relatively inexpensive and quick, says urban planner Mike Lydon.

"Tactical urbanism is the use of short-term or temporary projects to test out or to demonstrate the possibility for long-term change," says Lydon, a principal with the New York City-based Street Plans Collaborative, who takes credit for coining the phrase several years ago.

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