Asphalt Art Protects and Beautifies

In Kansas City, MO, an asphalt art project transformed a tricky intersection making it less hazardous for pedestrians.

Two cross streets approached from odd directions, creating two hairpin turns for motorists to navigate. Meanwhile, two wide lanes, encouraged motorists to speed — and left pedestrians anxious.

City engineers worked with Street Smarts Design + Build to address the safety challenges.

One theory guided the project: Wide traffic lanes encourage motorists to drive faster, while narrower lanes contribute to more attentive driving.

The design narrowed the travel lanes and added curb extensions bordered by planters, boulders, and bollards all designed to slow traffic.

“By shrinking the intersection, we’ve narrowed the lanes, which creates a friction along the edge,” says DuRon Netsell, principal of Street Smarts Design + Build. “Automatically, drivers are going to drive slower.”

The new design reclaimed some 4,000 square feet of roadway. The project cut the crosswalk distance in half, making crossing the street safer for pedestrians. And the share of pedestrians who reported feeling “very safe” at the intersection increased from 23 percent to 63 percent.

The project was funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative. The grant program gives up to $25,000 per locale for visual art interventions on roadways, pedestrian spaces, and public infrastructure.

More art on city streets appears in the April issue of Downtown Idea Exchange. Click to learn more about Downtown Idea Exchange and other resources for revitalizing downtowns and commercial corridors

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