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A New Urbanite in Newcastle.

I promised my son we'd do 100 things for our community.

From planting trees, to installing benches and making videos.

See how we're getting on...

2 trees
2 / 100

A Concrete Yard

Ooh, an up-and-over garage door! I parked the car there and felt smug.

But every time I looked out the window I would ignore the car and seek out the plants instead.

A Little Garden

So I decide rip out the concrete and make a little garden.

There are two raised beds, an apple tree, roses, brambles, a plum tree, grass, wildflowers, bushes, weeds, flowers, a birdbox, and somewhere to sit.

Now I spend time in the garden. There are birds. It's nice, but it's walled off so you probably can't enjoy it. Can you climb? Maybe you can.

Foreshadowing: concrete and cars are dull, nature is lit.

2 trees
2 benches
4 / 100
£1,400
Cars parking on the pavement at the entrance to Chillingham Road Primary School. There is little room for parents, grandparents and carers to wait for their children. The pavement is also used by children walking to school.

Pavement Parking Outside Chilli Road Primary

Chillingham Road Primary school has a problem with pavement parking (and driving).

After seeing close calls between cars and kids, I started to vent my frustration.

I learned that other parents, and the school had been asking for help for years. There have even been protests.

Benches outside of the school

Tactical School Benches

Frustrated at the lack of action, I decided a spot of Tactical Urbanism was needed.

Without permission, I donned some high-viz and installed a couple of benches to act as barriers.

I'd love to say my efforts were covert, but it's hard to keep a low profile with the kids in the playground. "Hello Daddy!"

Realising there was no point in denying my work, I started asking for feedback. People prefer the benches to the cars. Go figure.

Tactical Urbanism, also known as guerrilla urbanism, is a low-cost, temporary change to the built environment, intended to improve local neighbourhoods and city gathering places.

The goal is to advance long-term goals related to street safety and public space.

In this case, the benches do two things; prevent cars and vans driving on the pavement, but also create a pleasant space for parents, grandparents and carers to use during busy drop off and pick up times.

2 trees
1 planter
2 benches
5 / 100
£1,450

One School Planter

Despite the great feedback, we did have one local say that "we'd taken her parking space" (on the pavement / at the gate to the nursery / on the zig-zag lines). She also complained that the planter there was a waste of space and only used as a cat litter tray.

Tidied Up!

Fair point on the planter.

So we clean out the cat poo and plant it up!

Now there's a little greenery for everyone to enjoy while waiting for the kids to come out. Score.

2 trees
6 planters
4 benches
12 / 100
£2,250

Crowdfunding for more benches and planters

Two benches are not enough.

With 250 young kids at the school, we still see vans and cars mounting the pavement with little kids around, and there's hardly any room for pedestrians.

So I decide to take ownership of the problem, and set up a fundraiser on SpaceHive.

Smashed it

We quickly hit our target. The key points:

  • The school donated 5 unused planters
  • The North of Tyne Authority made a good donation
  • I put in £800
  • We can install another 2 benches
  • Our guerrilla project has now been sanctioned by the council

But best of all, is uncovering a community of similarly-minded people.

This was a real chicken and egg situation - SpaceHive wouldn't let me run the campaign without permission, but I couldn't find anyone in the council to grant me permission about an imaginary project. The council are criminally under-resourced, so that's fair enough. I needed an alternative approach.

Luckily the SpaceHive team decided I could run the campaign with a disclaimer "pending permission"... If we failed to get permission, then we'd simply have to refund the backers. No biggie.

This meant I had the duration of the project to drum up the backers and find permission. Many emails were sent, and phone calls made to find the right person. Ultimately the Senior Transport Planner gave us the OK, so we cracked on!

Take that, chicken! Or egg.

Twitter loves it

Part of the Spacehive process is to showcase your work, so I knocked up a little video as my update.

I'm not a cool kid, nor am I active any more - but maaaan, Twitter loves this!

  • 200,000+ impressions
  • 2,500 ❤️
  • 100s of quotes and retweets
  • Overwhelimingly positive comments

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