Want Strangers to Trust Each Other? Paint Crosswalks in Rainbows

People say they're more confident that their lost wallets would be returned or that they would meet a friend on a corner that had a rainbow-painted crosswalk.

1 minute read

August 28, 2017, 11:00 AM PDT

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

Vancouver, British Columbia

Anita Hart / Flickr

Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City and head of a consultancy with the same name, wanted to look into the way environments influence trust, isolation, and attitudes toward strangers. In researching these social topics, Montgomery led a study that involved a hundred participants, gauging their reactions to different locations in Vancouver. They were particularly struck by the response their subjects had to a corner with a rainbow crosswalk.

These crosswalks are a feature of Vancouver's Davie Village neighborhood. "[I]n 2012 the city’s road crews painted over the four standard zebra crosswalks at an intersection in the heart of the village with fat, bright, rainbow-colored bands. The move was so popular that they made the change permanent the following year and turned an adjoining side street into a rainbow-flecked public plaza," Montgomery writes for Quartz.

The study included a number of tests and questions: "We used games to test concentration and generosity. But people’s answers to standard survey questions told the most powerful story: They showed that the city’s tactical interventions made a huge difference to people’s feelings and attitudes," Montgomery reports.

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