Female creatives paint pavements in Hackney and Tower Hamlets to aid social distancing

A collective of female creatives have grouped together to grab extra space for pedestrians by painting water based-acrylic patterns and messages on roads across Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Hackney Road, Pic By: Tactical Urbanistas

A collective of female creatives have grouped together to grab extra space for pedestrians by painting water based-acrylic patterns and messages on roads across Hackney and Tower Hamlets. 

Tactical Urbanistas was established in April and have since widened pavements themselves by taking space for cars to help people safely social distance in the narrow streets of East London during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A spokesman for Tactical Urbanistas said: “Tactical Urbanistas was formed from conversations around frustrations at not being able to do much and at pace in our professional lives in response to the Covid-19 emergency and therefore, deciding to act as residents.”

The creatives say they have taken space particularly from roads “to make a point about how much of our public space is given to cars and to highlight problem areas to councils” said their spokesman. 

Hackney Wick Pic: Tactical Urbanistas

They have used tyres and plant pots to separate the road from their widened spaces. However, in Tower Hamlets the council removed these tyres as they were deemed a safety hazard.

Their spokesman said: “We source and build what we can ourselves for free – tyres we have managed to get as donations from local tyre shops and the wooden planter, used in Hackney Wick, we built ourselves.”

She added: “We want councils to help empower residents to address issues in their neighbourhoods by providing blueprints and support for this type of action. We are fortunate to be professionals in urban planning and design with an interest in improving streets for people but it would be great to see councils supporting local residents with a framework as to how they can make changes in their environments. Residents know better than anyone where issues lie in their neighbourhoods, and councils and TfL do not have the capacity to tackle problematic areas alone.”

Tactical Urbanistas said the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville and Hackney Councillor, Jon Burke have supported their work. 

Widened Pavements in Hackney Pic: Tactical Urbanistas

Whilst recognising that many boroughs across London have taken action to aid social distancing, their spokesman said: “Beyond the action taken by councils, there are still many areas where it is hard for people to social distance, including narrow pavements – especially those with car parking on either side. Forcing people either within 2m of each other or into the road and pinch points such as bridges, park entrances and footpaths with barriers (i.e. guard railing). All of these were issues to begin with but the pandemic has highlighted the lack of space for people in the design of our cities.”

She added: “There is unequal access to greenspace which the lockdown is both highlighting and exacerbating. Wealthy people are more likely to have access to a garden, whilst poorer areas, particularly in BAME communities, generally have limited access to greenspace.”

Tactical Urbanistas have received positive recognition from residents that are pleased that the group is helping them safely keep a distance in various locations. 

Their spokesman said: “It has sparked a conversation between residents and boroughs and has certainly raised more awareness of the need for this type of infrastructure.” 

Now that they have further developed their interventions in Islington, she said: “We are eager to venture further afield as this isn’t just an East London issue and we would like to raise awareness in other boroughs also.”

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