A recent post by @alanthefisher—a supercut of gridlocked traffic in an expanse of ever-widening freeways, where lanes are added but congestion always remains—is typical of urbanist TikTok. It’s a short, funny, and meme-y (ie, in the “TikTok style”), and it’s educational, effectively communicating the concept of induced demand in all of about 30 seconds. It also has nearly half a million views.
The fields of city planning, transportation, housing, and architecture don’t typically come to mind when thinking about viral social content. Nevertheless, this urbanist corner of TikTok (“CitiesTok”) is flourishing, particularly among a younger generation trapped in the suburbs during the pandemic. From Bloomberg:
In the burgeoning niche that is CitiesTok, dunking on the suburbs does well (800,000 of the 176 million views on the #suburbs hashtag are on a video about the “profoundly sad” homogeneity of modern suburban developments). So do spins on more traditional TikTok trends with a wonkier flavor (“Gorgeous gorgeous girls advocate for affordable and accessible public transit,” proclaims another post). Self-described “teen architecture enthusiast” Louisa Whitmore, 17, has racked up more than 13 million likes on her @louisatalksbuildings account, with critiques of the Watergate’s brutalism and New York’s super-tall skyscrapers. Jonathon Stalls, 39, uses his growing platform as @pedestriandignity to share reflections from his months walking across the US by foot.
While their content varies, these creators share a similar goal: to spread the gospel of urbanism to a new generation, and push policies that advance environmental adaptation and housing affordability.
This generation’s teenage rebellion against their parents consists of showing up at city council meetings to advocate for denser housing, slower speed limits, and more bike lanes. You love to see it.