It’s art. And it could make the street a little safer, too.
Artists Mery Godigna Collet and Luis R. Gutierrez recently partnered with city road crews to add wavy ribbons of bright blue paint, evocative of a waterway, across a crosswalk on Lake Austin Boulevard. The project, funded by a cultural arts grant, is Austin’s first “Creative Crosswalk.”
By adding colors, patterns or textures to such crossings, officials hope to make the crosswalks more visible to drivers while celebrating the arts in everyday life.
“We’re hopeful that this project and future creative crosswalks can make people proud of the street while also increasing motorists’ awareness of a pedestrian presence — thereby increasing yielding behavior on behalf of drivers,” said Eric Bollich, managing engineer for the Austin Transportation Department.
Collet and Gutierrez obtained a $2,500 grant from the city of Austin Economic Development Department’s Cultural Arts Division, which covered the cost of the work, design and paint. The artists worked with the city’s traffic engineer to ensure the design complied with state laws on road markings.
Workers added the stylized waves Thursday to the existing crosswalk and pedestrian beacon in the 3700 block of Lake Austin Boulevard, in front of the Transportation Department’s office. Crews will return in the next few days to add the double yellow lines down the middle of the street, as well as the bicycle lane and parking lane markings.
On her web page about the project, Collet said the goal was to “make a more joyful urban landscape.”
“In daily life, we become habitual beings, who follow our own urban routines without questioning,” Collet wrote. “We want to create a ‘surprise’ in such an ordinary event as crossing a street.”
Collet and Gutierrez created a similar project last year in front of the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, where bold stripes of black and white zigzag across the pavement. The cultural center paid for the installation.
Separately, the Transportation Department has been experimenting this year with some brightly colored curb extensions at busy intersections. Crews added blue and green polka dots to the corners at East Sixth and Waller streets, then put purple at the corners of Govalle Avenue and Tillery Street. Those “bulb-outs” create larger corners for pedestrians, shortening the distance for them to cross lanes of traffic.
City officials said the curb extension projects were primarily geared toward safety, while the “Creative Crosswalk” effort is more focused on community aesthetics.
“Creative Crosswalks highlight the pedestrian realm while at the same time showcasing the character and history of neighborhoods and making people proud of the roads that tie communities together,” Bollich said.
Want one in your neighborhood?
Residents may nominate a crossing for a “Creative Crosswalk” treatment by calling 311. The city does not have funding for additional crosswalks right now, but officials encourage interested residents and neighborhoods to identify grants or donations that could help pay for such work.