What is ‘tactical urbanism’ and how is it changing our streetscapes?

What is ‘tactical urbanism’ and how is it changing our streetscapes?

‘Tactical urbanism’ or ‘guerilla urbanism’ is one of the most exciting trends to hit our streets.

Already making an impact in cities around the world, New Zealand cities are embracing the concept. But what is tactical urbanism?

Tactical urbanism is the term used to describe ‘urban interventions’ that create more ‘people friendly’ streets and spaces – where people feel safe and comfortable moving around, in ways that are good for their health and take care of the planet.

Often Council-led with high levels of community engagement, tactical urbanism projects are interim and pop-up in nature. This allows changes to streets or spaces to be piloted in a way that’s low-risk, low-cost and low-commitment, and provide a community to ‘test out’ a design or solution before it’s implemented on a more permanent basis.

Some examples include:

  • Pop-up cycle lanes
  • Shared space streets
  • Pavement or sidewalk widening
  • Play streets
  • Parklets or micro parks
  • Community gardens.

Tactical urbanism in New Zealand

In 2019/2020, the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency committed more than $7 million to 72 tactical urbanism projects through its Innovating Streets for People pilot fund. The nationwide program is supporting Councils to demonstrate how tactical urbanism creates positive community outcomes, with projects ranging from neighbour-wide interventions to reduce traffic to neighbourhood ‘play street’ events and the creation of vibrant, pedestrian-friendly business districts.

And in 2020, the Government used tactical urbanism techniques during COVID lockdown period to create pop up bike lanes and widen sidewalks.

Innovative solutions for people-friendly streets and spaces

Urban Effects has been working with councils and communities for over 20 years to create streetscapes where people can socialise, eat, relax, walk and cycle safely. Here are our top tips and products for tactical urbanism projects that go from the interim ‘test’ stage to permanent.

End-of-ride facilities

Designing cities for people, not cars is the impetus behind many tactical urbanism projects. These projects create pop-up bike lanes and cycle-safe links to schools, business districts, shopping precincts and parks, and are not complete without convenient and secure end-of-ride facilities. Urban Effects has an extensive range of bike, scooter and skateboard racks, like our Bike Box Bike Rack which was installed in Napier’s CBD.

Chill out and connection zones

Creativity and a fresh take on previously unused or under-used spaces is a signature of tactical urbanism projects. Innovative seating solutions, including versatile modular designs, ensure these re-imagined and re-purposed spaces encourage people to take time out amidst the hustle and bustle of city life to connect with their co-workers or neighbours, or simply stop and breathe.

Pop-up playspaces

Think outside the playground when it comes to creating opportunities for healthy, active play in urban neighbourhoods and even business parks and precincts. Table tennis tables or super-sized chess boards are space-savvy ways to get people moving and engaging in some friendly competition.

Green is good

Pots, planters and community gardens revitalise and transform even the most urban environments, with a multitude of purposes which extend beyond the aesthetic. Planters can serve as attractive sound, sight and safety barriers, including between bikeways and pedestrian zones. The Urban Effects range includes planters of all shapes and sizes, a number of which can be easily moved between sites and positions, and large, boxed planters that are ideal for community or kerbside herb and vegetable gardens.

And of course, bollards assist to easily provide, guide or restrict access to areas and streetscape. Many of the bollards in our range are removable and feature innovative 3P Technology which allows the bollard to flex (not break) on impact, making them a safe, practical and low maintenance solution for shared pedestrian and vehicle zones.

Tactical urbanism ‘how to guides’ for councils and communities

There are some great resources available for councils, urban planners, landscape architects and communities to introduce tactical urbanism into urban planning toolkit.

As part of the Innovating Streets for People pilot program, the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency released a draft Tactical Urbanism Handbook. A tool to help councils and communities deliver tactical urbanism projects, it can be downloaded from the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency website.

The Australian-based Arup Engineering Group also published Tactical Urbanism: Making it happen which provides a framework for successful tactical urbanism projects and includes real-life examples and case studies from around the world.

Talk to us! The Urban Effects team can help you find the right street furniture solutions for your tactical urbanism project. Call us on Freephone 0508 487 226 or get in touch via email.