Streets are the arteries and veins of cities, and the right systems need to be in place to keep them decongested and safe. To reduce accidents, fatalities, and environmental concerns, cities all over the world are experimenting with new rules, infrastructure additions, and innovative visual communication strategies to make their streets safer and more sustainable.
Paris has adopted a multipronged approach to calming traffic, reducing accidents, and curbing pollution. It includes enacting a 30 kilometre speed limit on almost all city streets, offering financial incentives to bicycle commuters, and allowing cyclists to ignore red lights if the coast is clear.
Other major cities are taking similar steps. The Montreal borough of Plateau-Mont-Royal—which has rates of cyclist and pedestrian deaths five times higher than other city boroughs—is lowering its speed limits, creating 20 kilometres of new bike paths, and making intersections safer for pedestrians by widening sidewalk corners and building pedestrian islands.
When laws and better infrastructure aren’t working, a more creative approach may help keep streets safe. Combining behavioural science, impact design, and optical illusions, street signs are now being humanized to include silhouettes of real children. Trompe l’oeil techniques were used on roads in Vancouver school zones depicting a 3-D child playing in the street. In other cities, such as Preston, UK and Bangalore, India, life-size cardboard cutouts of police officers aim to trick drivers into slowing down.
Roads themselves are also being refitted with measures to promote safety. On roads in India, diagonal speed bumps result in an unfamiliar motion that startles drivers into slowing down. In Chicago, white lines painted on roads at progressively closer intervals aim to make drivers perceive their speed as faster than it actually is.
How else can creative communication help make cities safer?