Rallying Raleigh: Proof of the Power of Public Input

North America’s ‘drive everywhere’ culture has an undeniable impact on one’s physical & emotional well-being. On visits to Europe I was struck by how sociable a daily walk from work might be. You buy a baguette at a bakery, a pack of aspirin (that dissolve in water!!!) at a Pharmacy, a bottle of wine at a tiny shop, a bit of meat from a butcher- all on the way home. Meeting people, getting exercise. Being sociable, fit & less less stressed than a North American habitual highway auto lineup, where we sit in hermetically sealed cars; polluting, stressing, being socially isolated.

Walking is good for us, the environment and our cities’ sense of community. Matt Tomasulo thinks so, too. Difference is, he’s doing something about it. In Raleigh, N.C., he is using urban guerrilla activism to get the message out. He isn’t slashing tires or renting billboards that vilify drivers of ‘killing the Earth’, etc.

Nope, Matt has been putting up signs that tell residents just how short a walk it is from one place to another. The signs by Mr. Tomasulo, a 30 year old UNC/ NC State dual grad, who works as a landscape architect, look so professional they could be mistaken for a city-commissioned project. But they’re not the city’s initiative- the credit for that goes entirely to Mr. Tomasulo.

It’s yet another example of the Power of Public Input. The unapproved signs were initially removed by the city, then quickly reinstalled when the public voiced their support. ‘Walk Raleigh’ is now a rallying cry- with cities in Tennessee asking for details, and Hoboken, NJ too.

Call it “tactical urbanism”. Call it “guerrilla change agents at work”. Call it the power of public input.

In the 2.0 Interactive age, you the public or or you the consumer, have media power, influence, voter power. If you have a voice & some creativity, you can be heard whether you’re an Arab Spring dissident, a Myanmar democracy activist, an agent of change for a healthier city lifestyle.

Steven Litt