Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

2 minute read

May 24, 2024, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

A crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California. | Crosswalk Collective LA / Crosswalk Collective LA

Around the country, groups like the Chattanooga Urbanist Society are taking on the failures of municipal agencies through ‘guerilla urbanism,’ reports Adina Solomon in Smart Cities Dive.

In Chattanooga, the Society has been installing homemade benches — 60 to date — at bus stops that lack seating — roughly 95 percent of Chattanooga bus stops.

Guerilla urbanists, Solomon explains, “develop low-cost, short-term interventions to serve community members and inspire long-term change. Whether they are installing bike lanes, planting gardens in vacant lots or painting crosswalks, guerrilla urbanists usually do not ask for government permission.”

“If something has happened in a city [that’s] strong enough to unite a group and make them publicly work towards a unified end together, something must be really wrong with that city,” said Jon Jon Wesolowski, founding member of the Chattanooga Urbanist Society. In Chattanooga, the city has been largely supportive of the Society’s efforts. In Los Angeles, the city has had a less friendly response to a group that paints crosswalks at dangerous intersections, citing concerns that the DIY crosswalks don’t meet state standards.

For Wesolowski and others, guerilla urbanism has the power to make people more aware of their public realm and the speed with which improvements can be deployed. Meanwhile, “Governments can take guerrilla urbanism activity as an opportunity to engage the local community and get residents involved in fixing issues.”

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