An Initiative to Improve Street Safety through Public Art

The four-way intersection is buffeted by four curb expansions featuring murals, which shorten crosswalks and reshape the streets.

The four-way intersection is buffeted by four curb expansions featuring murals, which shorten crosswalks and reshape the streets. Courtesy Bloomberg Philanthropies

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Officials used street murals and planters to transform a hazardous intersection in Kansas City, Missouri, tapping grant funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies' Asphalt Art Initiative.

In the Westport neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri, where Wyandotte Street meets Westport Road, something seemed to be missing.

The intersection, surrounded by a library, a church, a post office and a kitchen supply store, had charm, but lacked safety. Two streets had stop signs, but the intersection’s width and configuration still posed a hazard for residents trying to cross the street on foot, said DuRon Netsell, a Westport resident and head of the Kansas City-based urban design firm Street Smarts Design + Build.

“We had constant speeding, and it’s a really wide road, so pedestrians had to travel quite a long way to get to the other side,” he said. “I don’t think I’d ever seen a car yield properly to a pedestrian, even though there were crosswalks and yield signs. The traffic just moved too fast.”

Netsell thought the intersection had ample space for public art installations mixed with innovative safety upgrades, including wider curbs, plants and dedicated parking for bikes and scooters. But he wasn’t sure how to pay for the project. And then he heard about the Asphalt Art Initiative, a grant program from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

The program, currently accepting applications for its second round of grants, provides up to $25,000 for projects in U.S. cities that use art and design “to improve street safety, revitalize public spaces, and engage residents.” Up to 20 winners will be announced this fall, which officials said is key timing for cities that are beginning to reimagine the appearance—and importance—of public spaces in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“By bringing light, color and creativity to blacktop, asphalt art projects can bring people together after so much time apart and breathe new life into our cities and our streets,” Janette Sadik-Khan, principal for transportation at Bloomberg Associates, said in a statement. “From open streets to outdoor dining, this past year has made the importance of the public realm clearer than ever, and this program will help cities coast to coast make their streetscapes as vibrant as the communities that come together to create them.” 

Sixteen cities received grants for projects in 2020, including Kansas City, where Netsell worked with city officials and local artists to revamp the busy intersection in his neighborhood.

The project included a host of changes, including the addition of two more stop signs and four curb extensions—open spaces with boundaries marked by boulders and planters, instead of solid slabs of concrete. Each extension encompasses roughly 400 square feet of asphalt, which the city turned over to four local artists to use as a canvas. The motifs of each street mural are different—two graphic, two floral, with varied designs—but they’re connected through their use of color, Netsell said.

“The paint we used—it’s just traffic striping paint—only came in six colors,” he said. “It was really neat to see how that worked, because the artists all have different styles and visions and techniques, but they all have some cohesiveness because of that color palette.”

The transformation goes beyond aesthetics. The new intersection reduced overall vehicle speeds by 45%, shortened pedestrian crossing distances by half and reduced noise levels by 10 to 12 decibels, according to survey data from the city.

Adding the two stop signs was a significant factor in those results, Netsell said, but the curb extensions helped, too—by reshaping the intersection, shortening the crosswalks and making it harder for cars to speed around the corners.  

“Whether it’s the art alone, or the stop signs alone, there’s a safety benefit, but combining the two is when the impact is fully realized," Netsell added. "They work tremendously well together.”

All U.S. cities are eligible to apply for the grants this year, including places that won funding last year, provided the money goes toward a new project. Netsell said he’d likely apply again, aiming to complete similar installations in other intersections throughout Kansas City.

“Right now, having art and fun and creativity in our neighborhoods and communities is such a wonderful thing we can bond over and see, just walking down the road,” he said. “When the art comes in, you know somebody really does care about this area.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

NEXT STORY: House to Vote on Elections Bill That Would Set New Standards For States

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.