‘The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.’ – Albert Einstein
The 21st century has entered the era of pandemics with the outbreak of Sars, Mers, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu, and now Covid-19, causing a worldwide crisis in public health, economy, and social structure. Although the cities around the world were competing in excelling on the economy, livability, and sustainability at a global scale, they all have shown significant unpreparedness in dealing with crisis management and urban design can embrace a new set of learning from this pandemic.
Unlike the well-planned cities of the developed countries, the Indian cities suffer from a high population density of a diverse socio-economic group of people, a large number of informal settlements with unhygienic living conditions, and a lack of green areas and quality public places. All these factors have made it difficult to reduce the transmission of this virus by restricting the use of outdoor places and promoting social distancing and confinement.
Amidst the long-term planning needed for the comprehensive up-gradation of the cities to make them more resilient to these kinds of outbreaks, tactical urbanism can be used as a tool for crisis management as well as a stepping stone towards preparing the cities and the citizens to enter the post-pandemic life.
What is tactical urbanism?
Tactical urbanism is a tool to address urban issues by minimal, cost-effective, and community-led temporal interventions in a shorter time frame. Context-specific interventions are needed to be designed based on the population densities and nature of the use of spaces for the desired outcome.
The implementation process, engaging the local community, creates awareness about the places. Therefore, tactical urbanism is a successful technique to prepare the city and the people for big transformation by creating trust between the decision-makers and users and contributes to a more sustainable and livable city.
Here are a few examples of tactical interventions from around the world that can be implemented in the Indian city context.
1. Transforming the streets to increase spaces for walking and cycling
There will be a fear to opt for public transportation, leading to a greater number of private vehicles causing more traffic congestion. Therefore, the streets can be redesigned temporarily for reduced cars and more walking and cycling lanes. These changes can be entailed by simply painting the different lanes and using low-cost street furniture. In the case of narrow streets, car movement can be paused for an interval, allowing the people to use the street for walking, exercising, or relaxing.
2. Re-imagining mobility
Creating safer lanes for cycling and dedicated cycle sharing systems can be enforced as alternative sustainable transportation in the cities. Worldwide this movement has already started as there is an increase of bike-sharing systems of around 150% in Beijing, 67% in New York, 151% increase in cycling traffic in Philadelphia, and 94% in Dundee. To make the streets cycle-friendly, Milan is planning a 35 km street transformation for cycling post lockdown, Columbia is adding 80 km, Paris is planning to reduce 72% on streetcar use by 2024 and London is increasing ten times its cycling lanes.
The tactical urbanism approach for achieving this transformation can be by installing speed reduction signages for the cars, light barriers indicating wider pop-up cycle lanes, pop up bicycle sharing systems and repair stations, and an app that can also be developed indicating the nearby locations.
3. Designing pandemic-resilient public places
While virtual media cannot be a long-term solution for human interaction, the built environment needs to be redesigned and experienced as a medium to control the epidemic spread by promoting less crowded and more inclusive safer spaces to get fresh air and exercise. Therefore, to contribute to the physical and psychological wellbeing of the citizens, several tactical initiatives can be introduced, such as marking the sitting areas in public plazas using tapes, utilizing the closed street and underused spaces for screening movies, arranging outdoor dining and planting trees.
4. Pop up local markets
To revive the local market community and enable people to shop and communicate, maintaining the social distance norms, pop-up market stalls can be installed on some days of the week to an open area. Many businesses also can have an extension on the street using flexible furniture for operating more safely than indoors. This way people can shop outdoors avoiding the recirculating pathogens in the air-conditioned market while contributing towards a sustainable local economy.
The cities are facing economic downtown due to the pandemic lockdown and the government is facing citizen’s frustrations over their actions. Therefore, tactical urbanism can integrate the health perspective in planning and can be proved a powerful and adaptable tool for the municipalities, urban activists, planners, and policymakers to improve the post-pandemic city life. With the frequent occurrences of pandemics, incremental tactical urbanism with its transformative potential will also be advantageous in the longer-term to achieve multiple broader goals like climate change, inclusivity, livability, and resilient local economy.
- Google Books. 2020. Handbook Of Systems And Complexity In Health. [online] Available at: <https://books.google.com.om/books?id=dVdDAAAAQBAJ&pg=PA1&lpg=PA1&dq=%22%E2%80%98The+world+will+not+evolve+past+its+current+state+of+crisis+by+using+the+same+thinking+that+created+the+situation.%E2%80%99+%E2%80%93+Albert+Einstein%22&source=bl&ots=ppswTUoxwt&sig=ACfU3U0aW0NTGeYyzRLK_6wF3xPJCVQi2g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiZvOiVn4LqAhVOC2MBHdSSCD0Q6AEwAHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22%E2%80%98The%20world%20will%20not%20evolve%20past%20its%20current%20state%20of%20crisis%20by%20using%20the%20same%20thinking%20that%20created%20the%20situation.%E2%80%99%20%E2%80%93%20Albert%20Einstein%22&f=false> [Accessed 12 June 2020].