Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Guerillas in our Midst

Throughout America there are cells of guerillas, plotting to throw off the constraints of government agencies. Working in secret, often anonymously in cities like New York City, Seattle, Portland Oregon, and Jersey City. These tactical urbanists are known as DOTr, Department of Transformation, and they are changing the way roads areperceived.

Operating in anonymous cell, some have funding from a supportive public. DOTr groups create protected bike lanes by placing traffic cones, planters, and toilet plungers on existing bike lanes and creating temporary bike lanes and crosswalks where none exist. The goal, is to push the city to work faster when it comes to improving safety on its streets.

Tactical urbanism does not involve people dressed like a SWAT team. Instead it consists of ordinary citizens who are tired of the slow pace or out right resistance of local government to make the lives of pedestrians and cyclists safer. While many of their installations are quickly removed by local government, all of them have inspired conversation. In some cases it has led to the creation of an officially approved permanent solution.

Now this concept has reached Philadelphia in the form of Safer Streets PHL. A group of urbanists, cyclists, and pedestrians have come together to address the decay and disrepair of Philadelphia's bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Their first action, on Thursday, August 24, was the creation of a temporary protected bike lane using toilet plungers as barricades. All though it only last a few hours during the morning, it started a conversation. One my favorite comments I found online was how people never realized how many cars drove in the bike lane until they saw broken plungers.

On September 8, Safer Streets PHL swept the protected Chestnut St. Bike Lane free of debris that had been left behind during construction. The type of things that can puncture tires and cause cyclists to lose their balance and crash. In the process they filled 9 trash bags.

I look forward to seeing what the future brings when it comes to Safer Streets PHL. A concept that I thought would never come to Philadelphia.

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