ASHEVILLE, NC — Part of Asheville’s city center recently received a temporary makeover to show how some simple modifications can make public spaces better for people of all ages.

This past November, AARP partnered with Asheville on Bikes, Blue Ridge Bicycle Club,  and the city of Asheville to construct and test some tweaks to public spaces to make walking and bicycling in the city safer and more accessible. An army of volunteers, including AARP Mountain Region members, led the effort over several months to create an alternative street configuration.

Greater transportation options, including walking and biking, is an essential domain of an age-friendly community. Buncombe County joined the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities in 2018 to best prepare for the greying of its population. But according to Rebecca Chaplin, Associate State Director of AARP in the Mountain Region, “age-friendly improvements benefit people young and old.”

Tactical Urbanism

The test in Asheville was conceived from the concept of “tactical urbanism” a variety of low-cost, short-term changes to public spaces. Because these changes are temporary, they serve as laboratories for city planners to study what works and what doesn’t when it comes to needed improvements.

The tweaks on Asheville’s Coaxe Ave. were a set of large aluminum planters that help define new parking places and pedestrian crosswalks. Other changes included unobtrusive traffic barriers that prevent cars from drifting

AARP volunteer Kim Dickens points out, “People are living longer and fuller lives, and the vast majority want to age in their own homes but still be able to actively engage with others. Street Tweaks provided a small-scale glimpse of a safer, more livable city.”