How open communication transforms public space

Cities are adjusting rapidly to changing demographics, rising populations and cultural shifts accelerated by technology. The rise of bicycles and the infrastructure designed to accommodatethem in US cities marks one of the most notable public space shifts. Simultaneously, there has been a rise in technology that has afforded more open communication about public space between citizens and their local governments.

Guerilla urbanism hasserved as a creative and typically constructive outlet for the impatient neighbor. Unsanctioned citizen public space modifications have also lended public officials the opportunity to learn from experiments that they only have to take credit for instiutionalizing if proven successful in practice.

The photo above is from a recently reported issue in long time SeeClickFix partner city Oakland. I found the comment train representativeof the value of open conversations about the public space.

The thread starts with the report, "On the attached photos below you can see that the residents (my neighbors) have painted their own parking spot and placed bike rails where a car should be park."

A commenter responds, "These on-street bike racks are called a "bike corral" and are an official installation by the City of Oakland, and they were installed by Public Works, not your neighbors. Replacing one car parking spot with space for 6-12 bikes to park is considered a good use of space, and by keeping the bike parking on the street this means less clutter on the sidewalk and fewer people biking on the sidewalk to reach a bike rack.

You can find more info about the city's bike corral program here.

And a map of bike parking facilities, including other on-street bike corrals around the city here."

I love interactions like this. 76 people have viewed this particular issue in just a few days. That's 76 people who now know about the city's bike corral program and the map of bike parking facilities. Had the issue been reported by email or phone to City Hall the neighborhood would not have had this benefit. In addition, two citizens have engaged on an issue they care about in a way that is civil, respectful, and informative.

With online communication and technology, it can be difficult to see the connection these processes have with the offline, tangible streets, trees, and citizens in our communities. And yet, issues like this posted from Oakland reveal a fascinating feedback loop where public space affects online engagement which, in turn, affects decisions about public space -- all mediated by open communication. And this communication involves a wider more diverse audience than previously could be imagined -- leading to more informed decisions onpublic spaces to build better communities.That's the power of open communication.

To read the rest of the Oakland issue thread, head to the issue or read below:

  • ACKNOWLEDGED City of Oakland Public Works (Verified Official)

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    MVS (Registered User)

  • Pie-chart-bicycle-470_small_square

    Robert Prinz (Registered User)