Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Using Humor to Effect Change on the Streets

Sure, we can try changing street-user behavior through the use of large signs, or burly Traffic Management Aides flapping their arms, or Chicago Police officers writing tickets.

But sometimes, a message is received louder and clearer when a little humor is mixed in.
Mimes hired by the city of Caracas, Venezuela help manage the streets' traffic.
(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)
Caracas, Venezuela apparently has streets and sidewalks even more chaotic than ours, including people riding down sidewalks on motorcycles (!). In order to draw attention to the problem, the mayor of one section of the city has hired 120 mimes to reinforce good behavior and call people out on bad behavior. The mimes wag their fingers at scofflaws and give smiley faces to those sharing the road. This innovative  technique has apparently been used in Bogota, Colombia with good results. I mean, really, who wants to get a frowny face from a mime? No one, that’s who.

Clowns in New York patrol for cars parked in bike lanes.
(Photo seen on times-up.org)
In New York City, the environmental action group Time’s Up has had “Bike Lane Liberation” events in which clowns ride bikes to find cars parked in the bike lane, give out mock tickets to remind the driver that it’s illegal to park in the bike lane, and encourage the driver to clear the lane, all with a good-natured smile. (Check out a longish video of the event here for full coverage.) Should we try one of these events in Chicago? We certainly wouldn’t have to ride far to find vehicles parked in the bike lanes ….

Toronto citizens show that building safe cycling infrastructure is easy as child's play.
(Photo seen on urbanrepairs.blogspot.com)
And in Toronto last week, where the regressive mayor currently in office is actually removing existing bike lanes, anonymous citizens called the Urban Repair Squad protested the ongoing removal by installing a row of Lego blocks to re-create the bike lane stripe. The campaign’s name is “Lego My Bike Lane”

A little humor goes a long way, doesn’t it?

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