Study: Street Murals Can Prevent Crashes

An analysis of asphalt art around the country indicates that painted intersections and roads can dramatically improve pedestrian safety.

2 minute read

May 5, 2022, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Street Mural

Painting the streets. / City of Cincinnati

According to a new study reported on by Kea Wilson, “Installing asphalt art on roads and intersection can cut crashes between motorists and other road users by a staggering 50%,” showing that this relatively inexpensive intervention can save a significant number of lives. “In a new report from Bloomberg Philanthropies, researchers analyzed crash rates and driver behavior before and after traffic-calming art projects were added to the 17 US roads and intersections for which the best possible data and imagery was available.”

Not only did the projects slash crashes involving vulnerable road users in half, they also lessened injury-causing crashes by an average of 37%, and cut overall crashes by 17%, too. Drivers even yielded to pedestrians in colorful crosswalks 27% more often, even though many intersections featured high-visibility paint before.

Unfortunately, many policymakers haven’t recognized the utility of asphalt art. “The most recent proposed edition of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices — the document which sets the standard for most of the signs, signals and street markings that annotate the right of way— warned against colorful crosswalks, in part, advocates say, because existing AV technology struggles to recognize them as places where people walk.” Other concerns include whether pedestrians with vision impairments can safely navigate colorful art, and how cities can maintain street murals.

Janette Sadik-Khan, former New York City transportation commissioner and principal at Bloomberg, “stresses that researchers are just beginning to understand the power of public art to transform public safety — and that the cost of trying it is shockingly low.” According to Sadik-Khan, “Bloomberg’s initiative provides a blueprint that cities around the world can follow, and hopes the safety study will fuel more such art.”

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