Tactical urbanism: traffic cone quick fix

We signed up for a local sports activity.  After six months, I became fed up with the casual driving onto the sidewalk for pick-up and drop-offs.  The street is wide so it’s easy to pull over for drop-offs or pick-ups while still allowing other vehicles to pass.  The street is plenty wide.

The last straw came during a winter night in January when an SUV blocked the entire sidewalk.  The sidewalk was unpassable and the street dark.  When did the sidewalk become an acceptable place to park?

I tried calling 311.  But it took forever to get through to a human.  And I doubted they could even arrive in time.  Level of effort: medium.  Satisfaction: zero.

When it happened again the next week, I contacted the councillor.  And a note was sent to increase by-law enforcement. Level of effort: low.  Satisfaction: to be determined.

Then it happened again the next week for my husband.  So, I decided to conduct a small experiment.

I liberated a couple of traffic cones that seemed discarded. (Once you start looking for traffic cones, they are everywhere.)

I placed the cones on the edge of the sidewalk and then went about other errands.  I dropped the kid off at his sports class and began observing the IMMENSE POWER OF THE TRAFFIC CONE.

I get a little help from my cone friends. #tacticalconing

A photo posted by Lana (@modalmom) on

Not a single vehicle pulled up onto the sidewalk.  An hour later, I returned and observed pick-up o’clock with the same results.  100% compliance.

With only two 2-foot tall traffic cones, the sidewalk parking was eliminated.  The experiment was a success.

Why does a small inanimate plastic cone work so well?  How does it manage to commander more respect than a human being?  It’s such an effective social cue to convey a warning or potential threat.  We know to avoid the cone without questioning it.  I don’t know how long the cones will last, but it’s proof that solutions don’t need to be permanent.  They can be temporary, cheap and quick.

Go go gadget traffic cones!

The cones lasted until April 27 when they were finally removed/moved from the area. But they lasted a WHOPPING 10 WEEKS! Through snowstorms and snowclearing – that alone was amazing. The cones really did the job of reminding drivers not to use the sidewalk as a drop-off / parking area. They were really effective.

Without them – the same behaviour of parking on the sidewalk has returned.  I’m always on the lookout for more cones now.

Caution: nature 🌿

A photo posted by Lana (@modalmom) on

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Comments: 1

  1. @dvdham says:

    I think the simple answer is that once a human being gets into a machine they lose their ability to relate on a human to human level; instead dropping to the level of dialog between objects.