Asphalt Art Does More Than Beautify Cities

Local artists and volunteers create crosswalk art.


Community, Art
Artists and volunteers paint a colorful intersection in Pittsburgh, PA.

(Photo by Sean Carroll.)

One intersection at a time, street art is beautifying cities and making them safer for pedestrians. The Asphalt Art Initiative by Bloomberg Philanthropies creates visual interventions at intersections, transforming dull, gray concrete into uplifting, bright, and safe spaces.

With its crosswalk art, intersection murals, and painted plazas, this initiative is also building community, calling upon local artists to work with volunteers in the area. One such example is the Gulfton Project in Houston, Texas. This city received a Bloomberg Philanthropies’ grant to improve dangerous intersections, according to Click2Houston.

A ‘living’ design
The Houston public works department selected an art studio to create a vibrant design, and community volunteers were recently asked to come out and paint the street. The design will be ‘living,’ as it will be redone every two years in order to re-inspire pedestrians and drivers and stay culturally relevant.

Such an initiative is imperative as more than 50 percent of injuries and fatalities happen near or in intersections, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Intersection murals are so bright, it is hard for a driver to miss them. Research for Bloomberg Philanthropies called the The Asphalt Art Safety Study shows that they are effective; crashes with cars and pedestrians were reduced by half and all crashes went down by 17 percent.

Janette Sadik-Khan, principal for transportation at Bloomberg Associates told Fast Company, “Using vibrant urban artwork which can really stand out and become some of cities’ biggest successes.” And this is a simple, beautiful solution. “Paint and other temporary treatments cost a fraction of concrete and capital work, and they can deliver real results for pennies on the dollar,” Sadik-Khan explained.

Aside from increasing safety, there are now more pedestrians outside and businesses are benefiting, reported Fast Company.. For motorists, the urban art did not result in a delay in travel times.

Initiatives in Europe
Popularity is growing. From 2002 through 2022, there were 42 Asphalt Art Initiative projects in the US, according to Bloomberg, as well as three pilot projects in Europe. In fact, 19 more European cities were just selected for revitalized pedestrian space, safety improvements, and  crosswalk murals, with installation starting in 2023.

The idea is to do this across the world. Bloomberg is making this dream a reality by offering a detailed guide in multiple languages. “Using vibrant urban artwork which can really stand out and become some of cities’ biggest successes,” Sadik-Khan told Fast Company.

With no lack of pavement, there is a vast canvas awaiting. And upon that bare canvas, creativity, community involvement, and safety may soon be blended, beautifying cities across the globe.

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