Street Hack Idea

Riding to work today, I approached a sharp, blind corner emerging from a narrow alley onto Belmont Street. I’ve gone through this corner a bunch of times, and it always feels like a trouble spot for collisions. You’re not sure if someone is about to come roaring round the corner straight into you. Maybe the ambiguity makes people ride more carefully, but anecdotally, I’ve seen cyclists and walkers take the corner at speed.

This seems like a common problem on roads, and you often seen a mirror installed as a simple solution. The mirror allows people approaching in both directions to see around the corner. There’s a good German Wikipedia article on traffic mirrors (Verkehrsspiegel) that should be translated.

Freyova, zatáčky cyklostezky u mostu bývalé železniční vlečky, výstavba Rezidence Eliška.jpg
Von ŠJů, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

I could suggest this to the local council for the area and hope/wait for them to do something—City of Sydney Council maintain and develop cycling infrastructure in the area and do a really great job—but that feels like a very slow way to work. It’s a very slow feedback cycle from experiencing the problem to developing and testing a solution. They also have lots of plans and work to do already.

The fence next to the corner is really sturdy (and borders a park so is probably our public property), so why don’t I just go find a sturdy and safe looking mirror from Reverse Garbage and install it and see if it works? I can test it out really quickly and see if it helps the situation.

This gave me an idea for a hack day for people who use streets to get around. In a day or two, a group of people could:

  1. get together and list all the problem in their local streets or commute routes;
  2. sketch out simple possible solutions to these problems;
  3. pick some solutions that seem achievable and would have a clear positive impact;
  4. go to a local recycling centre and pick up materials and tools;
  5. go out and install the solutions;
  6. test them out and see if they work;
  7. leave the ones that work; and finally,
  8. celebrate improvements to our streets.

This isn’t an original idea at all. There are lots of people already working to build/improve shared infrastructure (like the OpenAustralia Foundation), and lots of people who’ve made street level interventions.

This weekend I bumped into someone who designed the cycling way-finding/street signs for my area. It reminded me of the incredible skills and knowledge the citizens have to implement their own solutions. Everybody probably has a pretty good idea of common problems with the streets they use, and familiarity with common solutions, but there are also loads of experts around to help. They’re street users themselves.

This is something that local councils could support and use as a way to rapidly test street design and way-finding solutions. Organisations could support their team in fixing problems along their commutes to improve everyones safety and promote cycling. It strikes me that Fix My Street could be good for this.

If this hack day already exists in Sydney, or you’ve got a good example to share, I’d love to hear about it. If there’s some street problem that’s been bugging you, why not pop it in this google form and maybe we can start a collection to ride out and fix one day.

Add your street issues