By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Don’t be surprised if you see benches appear overnight on sidewalks, or flower pots on downtown streets if tactical urbanism becomes an accepted practice in Hamilton.
City staff and politicians remain grudgingly accepting of a new trend to revamp urban spaces in a low-cost, people-friendly manner.
“I’m enthusiastic,” said City Manager Chris Murray. “This isn’t about recklessness. This is a great chance for us to do some stuff.”
Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark acknowledged he was “nervous” when he first heard about the idea. But after studying the idea which has taken hold globally, he saw tactical urbanism as beneficial for the city.
“This is really about engaging the communities,” he said. “As a government we can find 100 ways to say no. This helps to speed up the process. I’m pleased with this. How can we make this happen?”
Hamiltonians first taste of tactical urbanism occurred earlier this spring when a crosswalk was painted at Cannon and Mary streets. It also hit the corner of Herkimer and Locke streets when screwed down bump out pylons were discovered to assist pedestrians. Both times city staff quickly removed the materials.
The trend has occurred in Cleveland, Buffalo, Brooklyn, Detroit, and Mexico City. In New York, hundreds of residents closed down Times Square when they brought chairs to sit in. Other events that have occurred included placing chairs on sidewalks, plants on streets, and creating pedestrian walkways on roadways.
Author Mike Lyndon has written about the idea producing free e-books Tactical Urbanism and Tactical Urban 2.
Graham McNally, of the Hamilton/Burlington Society of Architects, who appeared before the Sept. 5 general issues committee, along with Philip Toms of Tactical Urbanism Hamilton, said the trend is to make roads safer for pedestrians, at a lower cost, with immediate action without the bureaucratic slowdowns.
Paul Johnson, the city’s director of neighbourhood development strategies, said the 11 neighbourhoods in Hamilton’s downtown welcome the activities of tactical urbanism.
He suggested the city could “pilot a relationship and see how it goes.”
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead was more concerned about the risks of allowing such activities.
“It sounds like a bit like anarchy,” he said.
The reason government takes its time to make changes to its streets is because of protecting residents. All you need is one accident to get the lawyers involved, said Whitehead.
“We have a higher responsibility,” he said. “That’s why it’s bureaucratic.”
There are some activities that shouldn’t be done overnight, such as, for instance, allowing two-way traffic onCannon Streetwhich has become extremely popular for residents along the roadway, said Murray.
Murraysaid a report on possible projects the city can partner with tactical urbanism representatives will be presented to politicians later this month.