Imagine art work on the pavement’s asphalt! That’s what the Asphalt Art Initiative is doing, it is part of Bloomberg Philanthropies and is giving 19 European cities grants to create eye catching murals at crosswalks and near sidewalks. The idea is also to slow down traffic and accommodate pedestrians’ safety. Recent such initiatives have shown that when combined with other things called calming traffic devices, like bollards and modified curbs, that something like art on the pavement can enhance pedestrian safety. Speed at a crash prone crossroads in Kansas City was reduced by 45%. In Baltimore, the colored curbs initiated by the project, 41% of cars at a crossroads were encouraged to give pedestrians the right of way. Cities in Kosovo, Italy and Belgium which all have better pedestrian spaces will receive one of the grants and in Istanbul and Varna, Bulgaria, murals will be painted at crosswalks and crossroads.
Janette Sadik-Kahn a commissioner with the New York City Department of Transportation and the current principal for transportation at Bloomberg Associates says that “Projects like this not only connect people, but make streets safer, and we encourage cities everywhere to paint their own transportation masterpieces.” I’m for that. I hope you are too.
As is often the case a simple answer makes us go, Wow, why didn’t we think of this before. In this case it has to so with Strut Safe a telephone service for young women walking alone at night. It was started by Alice Jackson and her friend Rachel Chung after they had attended a vigil for a young woman killed while walking home. It is based in Edinburgh, but given that the dangers of young women walking alone at night applies to so many towns and cities in so many countries, the idea deserves airing. Perhaps it will be copied and help others too. Sometimes the callers are out of breath because they have run or are scared, or even think they have heard someone following them. The trained volunteers reassure them, reminding them that they are right there with them and will be until they are safe at their destination. The callers are asked personal information, the kind that might be needed if there was to be a problem, so that police or ambulance could find them, not only name, address and birth date but also what they are wearing so that they can be easily identified. And the calls last until callers reach home or wherever. Right now the service which is funded through donations operates weekends only and is usually used by people walking home from a club, after having left a boyfriend, or going home from work. While the service has been publicized, most find the number through social media.
Although many young people may have cars, many don’t. Even in big cities where public transportation and services like Uber exist, services if they are in operation at night can be very slow, pointing to the need for this idea even if it is adapted to local conditions and local needs.