Hub: Mainstreaming Cycling Tactics for Urban Innovation

What if every day were Bike to Work Day? That's one of the goals of Hub, a Vancouver-based non-profit, devoted to promoting bicycling and other transportation changes through education, community action, and events. Hub’s successes in Vancouver demonstrate how grassroots efforts and tactical projects used to change the urban environment can gain widespread adoption by the city government -  mainstreaming projects pioneered by a small group of concerned citizens.

City governments have begun to adopt initiatives that small interest groups like Hub create, once they prove successful. Hubwent from being slightly confrontational and working against the establishment to promote bike transportation, to being a partner to the local government. Created in 1996 by local cyclists concerned about bike safety, hub’s Initial successes included petitioning for improved signage, creating protected bike lanes, and getting bikes allowed on public transportation.

Hub has since grown, broadening its focus to include educating the public about the many benefits of biking, working with the municipal and provincial governments to promote biking as a key element of a resilient regional transportation plan. Hub now sees itself as part of a larger movement to build resilient regional transportation, applying their influence to raise awareness of projects to support pedestrian access and regional light rail.

Living and Cycing in Vancouver. Credit: La Citta Vita, Flickr

This is an example of an individual organization taking action to improve the city—in the spirit of tactical urbanism: individual, usually small-scale action usually focused on the built environment, taken to improve a neighborhood—and moving from the fringes to the mainstream, driving how a city evolves.

Tactical urbanism is important to how cities grow and solve problems, especially in developing contexts, says Mike Lydon, one of the lead authors of Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change. In this sense, the “city” includes more than just the municipal government; everyone from civil society to the private sector to academia to the layers of government works together to make the city run effectively and become more resilient. For the segments outside of the municipality, tactics like Tactical Urbanism are an important part of how they work to improve the city.

One of Hub’s offerings is consulting businesses on how they can be more bike-friendly, including making recommendations for adding facilities like employee showers and offering discounts to customers on two wheels. Although they don’t frame this offering in terms of resilience, it is nonetheless a powerful example of an intervention with multiple benefits: Companies save money on transit and parking reimbursement; employees are happier, healthier, and more productive; and streets and public transportation are less crowded. All of these are goals the city government might share with Hub and individual companies, demonstrating how certain types of urban activism projects can easily gain mainstream support.

Do you work for city government or have an interest in local, urban resilience issues? Head to Twitter and call out support for community organizations that could be powerful allies in building broad support for their resilience efforts, using #ResilientCities.

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