Tomasulo went undergrad to the University of Richmond, where he majored in business administration with a minor in studio art. He earned those last credits during a semester in Copenhagen studying architecture.
While finishing his second master's at UNC Chapel Hill, Tomasulo engaged in a little “guerilla wayfaring.” Under the cover of January darkness, he and some friends put up 27 cardboard and vinyl signs around downtown Raleigh, indicating how many minutes it’d take to travel to various landmarks and common destinations by foot. (Before he got into zip-tying signs to posts, Tomasulo founded City Fabric, which allows you to wear your city on your sleeve, or tummy. It’s like wearable Google Maps art.)
“And for the directionally challenged, the otherwise spartan signs are equipped with a high-tech surprise,” notes a Sierra Club article about the effort. "By scanning the signs with a smartphone, pedestrians can receive a specially tailored Google Map that will keep them on the right path.”
Ricmond's relationship to signage might be described as ambivalent. Like, for example, the three different entrances to Maymont and its somewhat confusing indicators or how the U.S. Marine Corps Raider Museum, gone from Lombardy Street since 2005, still has signs pointing toward it on Broad and Meadow streets. Today, it's more appropriately located in Quantico, Va.
The official annoyance that you would expect in Richmond toward this DIY approach occurred in Raleigh, too. The city’s planning director Michael Silver received complaints and started removing the signs, which at least one inspector thought professional-looking-enough that the city had put them up without telling him.
Rather than what I suspect would happen here, with wringing hands, rending of garments and vented frustrations on blogs, Silver compromised, and in March, the city council approved a three-month trial to see how citizens cottoned to the signs.
Raleigh let Tomasulo have his way.
Seems to me folks should pick this up in the RVA. Sure, the critics’ll sneer, “It’s somebody else’s idea. Typical Richmond.” It’s called open-source information. You use Wikipedia, right? Same diff.
Here’s an excellent and fascinating series of articles from the online journal Slate about how throughout the industrialized world, pedestrianism has been all but engineered out of existence.
Tom Vanderbilt writes that “in an America enraptured by the cultural prosthesis that is the automobile, walking has become a lost mode, perceived as not a legitimate way to travel but a necessary adjunct to one’s car journey, a hobby, or something that people without cars — those pitiable 'vulnerable road users,' as they are called with charitable condescension — do.”
If you've ever tried walking around in outer 'burbia where the sidewalks end, as I have in years past, you risk getting Doppler-shifting hoots from passing cars, long cold stares and outright hostility like you're a class traitor or an "undesirable." In Richmond, I see more bikes than I remember, but we who eschew "the cultural prosthesis" remain in the minority.