Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A mother-daughter artist duo has designed a simple but potentially effective solution to a major road safety problem.
Indian roads are notoriously unsafe for pedestrians and drivers. In 2014, an average of 16 people were killed in road crashes every hour; almost 40 percent of these crashes happened because of speeding. The country needs a comprehensive package of solutions to reduce the speed and volume of vehicles on the roads. But while these big fixes are in the works, a smaller, simpler one in Ahmedabad, a city in the Western state of Gujarat, is getting some attention.
A 28-year-old local artist named Saumya Pandya Thakkar (on right in the picture) has designed a distinctive 3D “zebra” crossing (pictured above) with the help of her 60-year-old mother Shakuntala Pandya (on the left).
From the front, the painted lines look like a road blocks, prompting drivers to slow down without braking too suddenly.
Thakkar isn’t new to 3D art, but had never before applied her talents towards urban interventions such as this one. In 2015, she was approached by a private infrastructure company to design a 3D crosswalk on a particularly crash-prone stretch of the Ahmedabad-Mehsana highway. Of course, cities around the world have tried to get creative with crosswalks; China, in particular, has tried out similar 3D pedestrian crossings. But it’s a novel idea in India, and with some tweaks, could end up making a big difference, Thakkar writes on Facebook.
Since the beginning of 2016, Thakkar has painted three designs on different parts of the highway, and is now set to expand the project to other cities, experimenting with styles and testing their effectiveness along the way.
Here’s a video obtained by the Mirror newspaper in the U.K. of the mother-daughter duo at another site:
Thakkar says she has been inundated by the positive reactions to her project. She’s happy such a small tactical urbanism solution created by two women is becoming a big topic of discussion around the world. And if her art can save even one life, she says, she’ll consider it a successful endeavor.
“I, as an Indian citizen, feel proud that I am doing my little bit for the nation,” she tells CityLab via email.