Slow the Funk Down! – A Tactical Urbanism Project
Written by Molly North
Tactical urbanism is a strategic tool used to try out new or necessary infrastructure, usually related to prioritizing people in the transportation system. The intent is to install something temporarily, measure the impacts, adjust to make improvements, and eventually install it permanently.
For this project, I wanted to see if I could impact the speeds of vehicles on the street next to our house.
I drew on inspiration from tactical urbanism project in Boston, MA and a year-long study in St Paul, MN. Jonathan Fertig, a Boston resident who has installed many projects over the years, responded to the Mayor who blamed a bicyclist for getting hit and killed by a driver. Fertig installed eight 2-D cartoon characters in the buffers of protected bike lanes. The characters had speech bubbles that said things like “Look for bikes before opening your door (that’s what this buffer is for)” and a conversation between Marty and Matt Damon that goes “C’mon guys, you can pahk better!” “Marty, why don’t you just put in some bollards” “What, I suppose you think you are some sort of genius?” “Um, well, no. But I played one.” In St Paul, Nicole Morris, director of the HumanFIRST Laboratory at the University of Minnesota, measured the number of drivers stopping at crosswalks for pedestrians. Morris installed official-looking street signs around the city to indicate both the percent of drivers who stopped last week and the record. She intentionally used “human factors psychology” to try to influence people to change their behavior toward the behavior of the majority.
My collaborators and I decided to measure speeds on 44th Ave for five weeks (one weekday morning, one weekday mid-day, one weekday evening, and Saturday morning) and then post the percent of people observing the speed limit at the end of each week. In discussion with my adviser, I determined that Westbound drivers would see a human cutout holding a sign with the percentages; Eastbound drivers would see a black and white, campaign-style sign with the percentages. My hypothesis was that drivers in both directions will be influenced to obey the speed limit, but they will be more influenced by the sign being held by the human cutout.
I decided to add WalkDenver’s “Slow the Funk Down” campaign signs to the same side of the street as the human cutout. In discussion with my husband Matt Kowal, we decided Bootsy Collins would be the best artist to (literally) carry our message. Bootsy is the luminary of funk, one of America’s greatest musical styles. We are seeking to use the power of music and art to help make the neighborhood safer.
- Week of October 29 – I measured speeds on 44th Avenue
- November 3 – I asked Matt and two friends to help, and we created a Bootsy Collins cutout. We installed the two different signs at opposite ends of the block on 44th
- Week of November 5 – Matt will measure speeds and we will see if there is a change!
- Check back next week for an update!
Molly wrote this November 4th.
On the evening of the 4th, or perhaps Monday morning, Bootsy was tragically stolen from his corner outpost. However, his spirit lives on! Boosty’s message can be duplicated and replicated for the benefit of all the neighborhoods in our fair city.