Walk Tucson

I’m attracted to the idea of Tactical Urbanism, which uses quick, often temporary, cheap projects to make a small part of our city more vibrant, lively, or enjoyable. It also allows new concepts to be tested before making substantial investments. Ultimately, Tactical Urbanism is a way to prompt larger changes by showing what is possible without the burden of permits and insurance.

So when I read about a group that installed simple pedestrian wayfinding signs in downtown Raleigh, NC I was excited about how we might be able to replicate it here in Tucson. This type of project fit perfectly with ongoing efforts in my neighborhood, Rincon Heights, to promote walking and cycling as transportation options. I also had a bit of a head start with the destinations identified during the Walking Workshop held in my neighborhood last October.

The Raleigh team, Walk Your City, also provides online templates and guides for the signs, which I used to create a custom sign template. I also included a QR Code that links to a Google map of destinations within and around our neighborhood.  Printing 35 signs on corrugated plastic at a local print shop and zip ties to hang them cost about $200. I recruited an anonymous friend to help hang the signs along the primary walking routes through the neighborhood and at key intersections.

Wayfinding signs at crosswalk
Friend who shall not be named helps attach signs

So I don’t have any expectations that this small effort will suddenly bring throngs of walkers to my local sidewalk. But I do hope that it will help stir conversations about how wayfinding can help make walking a more realistic option for people’s daily errands.

What do you think? Can small do-it-yourself efforts like this inspire bigger changes?


By Colby Henley

Colby is a bike commuter, a volunteer with the Bicycle Advisory Committee Downtown/UA subcommittee, and member of Living Streets Alliance. He can't wait to take his new granddaughter on her first bike ride.

12 thoughts on “Walk Tucson: tactical urbanism meets walking directions”
  1. Love the signs! Clean, simple, and useful. Thank you for investing your time and money in the community.

  2. I don’t want you to lose focus of your real goal (to promote walking and cycling as transportation options) but you could talk to the businesses to see if they could chip in some money for signs.  You are pointing out to people that certain businesses are just a few minutes away from the pedestrian.  Those businesses could benefit from this low-key advertising and might be willing to pay for it.
    Or maybe that would just bog down the whole cool idea.  Anyway, keep it in mind.

  3. What a brilliant idea! Thank you for providing links as well… I’m going to be looking into this, as I live in a location that has many businesses and amenities that could be easily accessible by foot/pedal power. Conversely, I will also bring up the possibility of maybe sending out a “map”, or list of these businesses/amenities out with our online neighborhood association letter. Kind of a ” Hey, spring is almost here, what a GREAT time to walk or bike to…” And list times to get to these places in minutes. Ooh, gotta go write this down.
    Again, Thank you! =)

  4. Was this a neighborhood-backed effort? I foresee little logos appearing and the potential for sign clutter. Are we really at a point where people set off to go somewhere not knowing how to get there…at least on this small scale?  What about, ‘Life is a journey, not a destination’  anyway.

  5. Hi ZZ – Good questions. It was not a neighborhood backed event. Our neighborhood is a bit unique in that we have a LOT of UA students who park all thru the hood, most of them aren’t from this part of Tucson and may benefit from the signs as they’re walking to class. Sign clutter – definitely an issue. We tried to make the signs clean and professional looking and the picture above with the 4 signs was the most on any single pole – most only had 1 or 2 signs. Certainly not any worse that the numerous remnants of 6 month old ‘lost cat’ signs still hanging around. Thanks for the comment

  6. This is a wonderful idea. It is something that is not just useful, but I think could bring about more discussion on the topic. Have you considered adding a small URL or contact info where people could read or participate in further discussions on the topic? 

  7. We are in the process of transitioning/revamping our neighborhood website, so once that is complete I’ll probably add a small sticker with the link to the sings.

  8. I live very near the signs in the top picture and noticed them the first day.  I walk and bike through the Miles neighborhood all the time, but never stopped to think how close things really are.  I think walking times will encourage me and my neighrbors to walk more.

  9. Great work. These signs are very useful, especially for some strangers
    come to new town and villages, they can get a lot of help form arrows
    and http://www.barcodelib.com/ on the signs. In my point of view, it’s a great action.

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