John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
It’s not just being weird this time—there’s a safety value to the new crossings.
Yesterday, Portland stole a bit of Seattle’s thunder by debuting crosswalks decorated with rain drops and umbrellas.
The pair of so-called “creative crosswalks” lie in Old Town Chinatown and represent the city’s first foray into artistic zebra stripes. For once, this isn’t just Portland being goofy: The crosswalks are meant to “improve pedestrian safety and contribute to the district’s vitality,” according to the Bureau of Transportation. Pedestrians will be more likely to notice and use the pathways, presumably, and they’ll be easier for motorists to spot and obey.
The weather-themed design was partly generated by community members, who apparently aren’t so sensitive about their dreary weather as Seattleites. Jake Kaempf of local design studio Ampersand Content helped officials create the crossing. Here’s more from a city press release:
The project originated when members of the Old Town Chinatown Community Association approached the transportation bureau for ways to foster a more vibrant and attractive pedestrian atmosphere. PBOT Director Treat, familiar with creative crosswalks in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver B.C., introduced that concept, which the community adopted.
“Our streets are the largest public space in our city, representing one quarter of our land. They should be pleasant and safe places that foster community and business, and that’s what we are doing here through this public-private partnership,” says Treat. “Together, we are delivering a safer and more inviting crossing. This creative project is a small investment with a big return.”
To be thorough, the City of West Hollywood also has a rainbow-colored crossing, which this site has awarded the title of “Gayest Crosswalk Ever.”