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'Guerilla' bike lanes demonstrate the power of citizen experimentation

Signal of change / 'Guerilla' bike lanes demonstrate the power of citizen experimentation

By Li Lin Loh / 22 Jun 2017

Latvian cycling activists have taken back the streets in Riga, by painting in bike lanes on a main artery, where city officials had previously rejected the concept owing to inadequate space.

The successful use of the bike lanes by locals on the morning they appeared demonstrated the validity of citizen knowledge and experience in contributing to effective urban design. Bicycles and vehicular traffic were able to share the road safely, and the dedicated lanes encouraged cyclists off the pavements and onto the roads.

So what?

The recent string of guerilla protests involving the installation or upgrading of bike lanes come at a time when cities, communities and civic groups are questioning the amount of space and intention usually reserved for vehicular traffic. Public dialogue involving these stakeholders has sometimes proven ineffective due to how these conversations are designed, as is the case with Riga's proposed bike lanes. Now, citizens are showing that in certain domains, they are willing to take action and experiment. Governments should then be attentive to this capacity and ensure engagement with their communities are designed so as to allow for creative space to experiment legitimately. 

In an age where governments aspire to be agile and to do more with less, collaborating with the people they serve may be one of the quickest ways through to innovation for lasting, effective change. 


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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