Quick Builds for Better Streets

This readable and practical guide provided by People for Bikes focuses on how tactical urbanism can be implemented to quickly ensure places are more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. It focuses on ‘quick build’ projects, which they explain falls somewhere in the middle between temporary and permanent changes on the tactical urbanism spectrum. Although it draws on U.S city case studies, the guidance provided can apply to any place.

Date added 28 July 2020
Last updated 28 July 2020

During the Covid-19 pandemic, places around the world have become (temporarily) transformed by drawing on tactical urbanism interventions. This readable and practical guide, provided by People for Bikes, focuses on how tactical urbanism can be implemented to quickly ensure places are more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly. As the authors explain, “The problems modern city streets face are as huge as ever. But these days, many of the best solutions are small. You can’t tweak a freeway. But a public plaza, a protected bike lane, a dedicated bus lane: these features of modern cities, unlike the projects we built two generations ago, can be made quickly and adjusted fast” (p.3). The guide focuses on ‘quick build’ projects, which the authors explain fall somewhere in the middle between temporary and permanent changes on the ‘tactical urbanism spectrum’. Example case studies from U.S cities are provided throughout. According to the authors, every ‘quick build street project’ needs the following nine key things for success:

  1. A team - buy-in is needed from a range of specialists. The team needs to be united in their enthusiasm for creative uses of public space. Strong leadership is important to guide the team and quickly resolve any issues arising.
  2. System for seizing opportunity - flexible processes are needed to enable projects to get off the ground quickly when opportunities for reinvention arise.
  3. Institutionalized urgency - deadlines for redesign and installation are needed to get the project moving quickly. This can be impacted by seasonality and weather.
  4. Reliable funding strategy - innovation is needed when it comes to attaining funding to ensure the project moves quickly, with local money sometimes better. If a reliable funding stream is not found, this can be a big barrier to quick build redesign projects.
  5. Contracting plan - a contracting plan is important to ensure materials required are sourced quickly from suppliers. In-house and community-level delivery can work better for quick builds.
  6. Outreach plan - initial re-designs should be considered an innovative testing ground. Feedback from the local community is important, with iterative revisions over time to improve the interventions made common.
  7. Specialized communications - direct outreach to stakeholders and local communities is important. Clear communications about the redesigns and rebuilds is needed.
  8. Maintenance plan - time, money and equipment needs to be factored into projects in order to ensure any quick builds can be repaired and maintained over time. Includes things like replacing broken materials and repainting. Especially needed for low-cost, flexible materials often used in tactical urbanism.
  9. Measurement - ongoing measurement of any interventions made is important in order to inform any necessary revisions and to demonstrate any successes.

For related resources

For an Introduction to Tactical Urbanism, please see this video from Dr Steve Millington (IPM).

For more practical advice on how to conduct tactical urbanism, please see this resource from The Street Plans Collaborative.