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Artists Protecting Pedestrians

How artists came up with a solution to reverse the increase in pedestrian deaths.

Eastern Pennsylvania and Monroe County have had far too many pedestrians seriously injured or killed by motor vehicles in the past few years.The question is what to do about it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a study reporting that in 2013, 49% of pedestrian fatalities were alcohol related. However, distracted driving and the use of cellphones by drivers are no doubt playing an increasing role.

Inspiration from Mother/Daughter Artists in India

In an effort to protect pedestrians at intersections, a small fishing town in Iceland created an innovative design based on an experiment in New Delhi, India.

The classic crosswalk didn’t seem to be preventing car accidents in India, so a mother/daughter team of artists decided to do something about it. They painted a  3D roadblock illusion crosswalk on a highway in the Indian city of Ahmedabadas. The artwork appears to jut out of the street when far away, but the illusion fades on approach. For this reason, the artists say motorists won’t be slamming on their brakes as they approach it. The crosswalk’s purpose is to create enough of a distraction to make drivers slow down, but not be convincing enough to make them think it’s a real object.

Iceland’s Version

Ralf Trylla, a visitor from Iceland, saw the artwork and wondered if it could be used effectively back in his hometown of Ísafjörður, where he is the local environmental commissioner.

At Trylla’s urging, the town painted an intersection with zebra stripes that appear three-dimensional. The design gets the attention of drivers because as they approach the intersections, the stripes seem to float above the macadam. The illusion is impressive enough to make you wonder whether objects are really floating in the street.

The town hopes that their artistic pavement markings will convince motorists to slow at crosswalks. If the artwork works, the town may decide to expand its use to other intersections.

Trompe L’oeil Technique

The 3D optical illusion crosswalk is known as trompe l’oeil which, in French, is translated as “deceive the eye.”  It is an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Artists have been using this depth technique since the Greek and Roman times.

Trompe l’oeil is very popular in street art and can be seen in cities all over the world.

Efforts in USA

Artists in Baltimore have tried something similar by painting crosswalks to look like giant hopscotch boards or zippers—anything to get the attention of motorists and pedestrians.


While I don’t expect to see a zipper painted across Main Street in Stroudsburg any time soon, it is great to see how the art world is not only giving us a more enriching cultural life but a safer one as well.

~Jerry Geiger 

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