Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crosswalk art

Last autumn, I was pretty surprised when the new crosswalks went in at 45th and Wallingford, after the repaving of 45th was completed. The reason I was surprised is that the three crosswalks looked like this:

Was this some kind of new ultra-visible safety crosswalk? Or was it purely decorative?

Perhaps you have asked yourself these same questions. Well, I decided to find the answers.

It turns out that these crosswalks are made with a new product called Duratherm by a company named Streetprint. According to their website, the crosswalks are made with "inlaid thermoplastic" that can be applied in different patterns and colors. Cities across North America have been installing the decorative crosswalks. You can see in this photo gallery that most of the patterns around the country seem to be brick-inspired.

Actually, Wallingford's new crosswalks are not the first Duratherm crosswalks in the city. In August 2007, the West Seattle Herald unveiled the design for a new crosswalk at the intersection of California Avenue and Southwest Lander Street in West Seattle.

The very cool and informative Smarter Neighbors blog, which deals with Seattle land use issues in our neighborhoods, has also blogged on these crosswalks.

So are they safer? Not necessarily. The Seattle Department of Transportation explicitly states here that "textured and colored concrete is an aesthetic treatment, not a safety improvement".

I suspect we'll be seeing more of these crosswalks around the city as time goes by.


Anonymous said...

I am a true believer in using all means to create a sense of place. Every element on our streets can add to the character of our neighborhood: from banners on light posts to well-tended planter strip and island plantings.

I support the idea of non-standard crosswalks, but I'm not sure the result was as successful as it could have been. While the pattern resembles bricks, the color choices don't support that intention (I've never seen bright-orange mortar).

If we continue these crosswalk treatments - which I'm all for - maybe some closer to the ones on the top of Queen Anne would better reflect the character of our neighborhood.


Lance Sleuthe said...

You're right -- those bricks are inverted! Maybe the process is better suited to laying down lines than filling in blocks of color.

I haven't seen the crosswalks on Queen Anne. Nor could I find pictures on the web. Where are they located? What do you like about them?

Anonymous said...

If you're still interested, one is on Queen Anne Ave and Boston and the other is at the next four-way stop south on Queen Anne Ave.

They're stamped concrete intended to look like grey bricks and they appear more natural (grey brick, grey mortar) to me than the orange, black and white treatment.

Sorry, but I couldn't find any photos posted online.


Lance Sleuthe said...

Thanks, I'll take a look next time I'm up on Queen Anne.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one that gets dizzy when looking down at the crosswalks? I actually almost lost my balance the first time I went through one of them, and since then I have to keep my eyes up. I think they are a hazard and would like to know if studies were done before installing them.