The ongoing pandemic exposed just how critical safe, convenient, and affordable transportation options are for people, especially those whose jobs can’t be done remotely or who need to access essential services.
As infection rates fluctuate, more people are biking, walking, and scooting to get where they need to go. That means demand for safe streets with decent options for all kinds of movement is on the rise.
Through our 2020 policy agenda and recent essential transportation campaign, we called on the City of Atlanta to empower communities to creatively improve safety on their streets through small, interim projects by establishing a city approval process--or tactical urbanism permit.
This post is meant to explain the concept of tactical urbanism, provide an update on advocacy for a tactical urbanism permit for Atlanta, and ask for your continued support for equitable transportation options.
What is tactical urbanism?
Tactical urbanism is a broad term. It can be a city and/or people-led project that improves a neighborhood using inexpensive materials. One book defines them as “short-term actions for long-term change”.
As envisioned in Atlanta, tactical urbanism efforts have often focused on making streets safer for the most vulnerable on our roads: people walking, biking, using wheelchairs, or scooting.
Local examples of tactical urbanism include business, resident, and city-led efforts, such as Condesa Coffee's Park(ing) Day installation on Auburn Avenue, the Pillyr Foundation's “Operation Pitstop” at Atlanta Streets Alive-Westside, and the City of Atlanta's pop-up bike lane on 10th Street.
Photo provided by The Pillyr Foundation
Does Atlanta have a tactical urbanism program?
Not yet, although City Planning has a Placemaking Program with elements of tactical urbanism.
That’s why we’re excitedly anticipating the release of a new Tactical Urbanism Permit Application from the Atlanta Department of Transportation very soon!
The ATLDOT Strategic plan committed to "take every opportunity to make Atlanta's streets safer" and set a goal to “implement 2 near-term safety projects using tactical urbanism tools.”
The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition promised you we would hold the new Department of Transportation accountable. We have been pushing for this permit since 2019.
Who can create tactical urbanism projects?
Tactical Urbanism allows for greater flexibility in who can contribute to transportation systems.
Because they are lighter and simpler than major public infrastructure overhauls, tactical urbanism projects open the door for communities to create them on their own timelines.
At the same time, local governments can also deliver tactical projects that reflect their priorities.
Examples from other cities with tactical urbanism permits depict innovative projects being led by communities, businesses, grassroots organizations, or other people-led entities.
What can you do?
If you’re interested in exploring a tactical urbanism project to make streets safer in your community, here are a few questions to get you started.
Does your neighborhood association have
- a budget with funding available for small projects?
- a master plan with transportation projects or needs identified?
- a transportation committee?
- a person with an idea or a vision for making our street safer?
If funding availability is a road-block, pun intended, or if you are not connected with a neighborhood association, other options may include
- The city’s Placemaking Program
- Pillyr Foundation
- AARP Community Challenge Grants
- Seeking local funding from other community organizations such as faith institutions, local businesses, or business associations
As the ATL DOT plan states, “the transportation challenges facing Atlanta may be citywide, but all street design decisions are local.”
By creating a process that allows neighbors to come together for street improvements while advancing citywide goals for safety, tactical urbanism represents a productive step forward in local decision-making.
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