Guerrilla Urbanism Tactics

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guerrilla urbanism

Huffington Post Green recently shared a guerrilla story, but perhaps not the kind that most people would have in mind. This one is about several people in Raleigh, North Carolina committing a “subversive act” to encourage their fellow city dwellers to – walk. Matt Tomasulo, 30, along with other “guerrillas” put up 27 signs with information on how long it takes to walk from one point in the city to another. The signs were placed at several strategic intersections in Raleigh, all without official permission.

But Tomasulo’s helpful and encouraging signs were official-looking enough to pass under casual scrutiny and stayed up for a month before officials finally caught on and took them down. Tomasulo said that the signs aimed to remind people they have a choice to walk. Messages such as “It’s a 16 minute walk to Seaboard Station” do not tell people to walk mandatorily, but offer them a healthier, more environmentally-friendly choice other than getting onto a vehicle to get there. Tomasulo’s project eventually led to a website called Walk Raleigh, which later developed into Walk [Your City], a site where signs can be created for one’s own city. One local city official loved the idea enough and worked to re-install the signs as part of a 90-day pilot assessment program. Other towns and cities also want to try out the project in their own areas to see if the signs will encourage people to walk more.

Not bad for a project initially done under the cover of the night. Such projects are considered part of guerrilla urbanism or tactical urbanism, a rising movement of ordinary citizens working to change their urban environment even without official permission. A similar story of graft punks (illegally) grafting fruit-bearing branches on ornamental fruit trees may be considered as part of guerrilla urbanism, too.

Tactical or guerrilla urbanism can take form in small scale, but effective projects with the purpose of making urban areas and spaces better. Grist featured a post last year about new urbanism together with a downloadable Tactical Urbanism guide by Street Plans Collaborative. The guide, subsequently updated to Tactical Urbanism 2, is full of ideas and different projects people can start to contribute to positive change in their communities. A downloadable copy can be obtained from Street Plans Collaborative’s site and from Issuu.

Tomasulo’s signs is one such good idea and demonstrates what can be began and developed from a simple initiative. Here are some more guerrilla urbanism projects, taken from Tactical Urbanism 2.

Open Streets are often recognizable today as car-free zones, but they started as temporary open spaces for pedestrians, cyclists, and skaters. The purpose of open streets is not so much as blocking cars and raising awareness of their hazards and effect on urban living, but of bringing people together in a place where they can freely mingle and socialize without worrying about traffic dangers.

Guerrilla Gardening is also widespread among many urban communities today. Tactics such as seed bombs and starting gardens on unused public and private land often lead to unexpected results. Tactical Urbanism 2 shares the story of an “illegal” garden started in New York which was later adopted and cared for by the New York City Parks Department itself.

Parklets are another example of how even a little amount of space can be used creatively and beneficially. Often taking no more than two or three parking spaces, parklets ingeniuosly transform underutilized asphalt into useful public spaces. Bicycle parking, benches, tables, and greenery are often found in parklets, livening up the urbanscape.


Guerrilla urbanism tactics like these empower ordinary citizens into taking action to mold and improve urban communities. What guerrilla tactic can you do to kickstart a change in your community today?


Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by moonlightbulb on Flickr.

Estel M.
About Estel M. (339 Posts)

Estel Grace Masangkay is a creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and nature activities. She is passionate about sustainability and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.

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