All-In For Guerrilla Urbanism
Less Talk; More Action.
There’s debate among boosters about what makes a real city versus what’s a suburb wearing a cardboard cut-out of a downtown. One way of determining a real city is how it treats its public transit users. I ride AC Transit, the public transit system of the cities surrounding Oakland, and a common sight is people sitting on the ground rather than a bench, waiting for their bus.
I’ve complained for years. I’ve told council members in Berkeley and Oakland about stops that need fixing. I personally communicated with Berkeley’s transportation staff about places that need benches. Nothing ever amounted to it. So one day I found my neighbor who had recently recovered from surgery sitting on the ground waiting for his bus. To illustrate how disrespectfully bus riders are treated, I take photos of people sitting on the ground and to tag our local public transit agency and city to confront them for their inaction. The photos tend to go viral, there’s a lot of outrage, but the government agencies never do anything beyond a canned response of “we’re looking into it.”
But someone decided to do something about it. Mingwei Samuels, a member of a guerrilla urbanist organization Safe Street Rebel, decided to do what the city refused to and put a bench at that bus stop. His post about the bench went even more viral than my own as people from around the world applauded his good deed. It went viral on local news media, with my neighbor being interviewed and telling reporters how much he loved the bench. I even tried the bench out myself and it proved very sturdy and stable. The designs of the bench are based off this public bench template that up until now have mostly been deployed in San Francisco.