One rainy January night in Raleigh, North Carolina, Matt Tomasulo went out to commit what some would call vandalism. Along with his girlfriend and a friend, the graduate student walked around downtown hanging homemade signs on lampposts and telephone poles. The signs featured arrows pointing the way to popular downtown destinations, along with average walking times. Tomasulo called the project “guerrilla wayfinding.” His decidedly un-criminal intent was to promote more walking among Raleigh citizens.
Frustrated by the syrup-slow pace and red tape of the traditional civic change process, citizens across the country are bypassing the bureaucratic machine entirely and undertaking quick, low-cost city improvements without government sanction. They’re creating pop-up parks in abandoned lots. They’re installing free library boxes on street corners. They’re creating homemade traffic-slowing devices using temporary obstacles like potted plants to make their streets safer. […]