crosswalk dance
Walk on the Wild Side: 14 Crosswalk Illusions & Interventions
By Steph,
Web Urbanist, 27 April 2016.

Optical illusions that seem to produce real 3D speed bumps on a flat street may enhance safety by encouraging drivers to slow down, but such colourful crosswalk paintings could soon become extinct in the United States. Now that the Federal Highway Administration started cracking down on anything that distracts from the contrast of bright white crosswalk lines, citing concerns that drivers will get confused, attempts to make intersections more interesting could come to a screeching halt. Bright patterns on asphalt may fade, but other crosswalk interventions will live on, like interactive dancing signals, fist-bump buttons and roll-out guerrilla-style crosswalks for busy areas.

1. Colourful Crosswalks by Carlos Cruz-Diez

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Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez has been painting crosswalk interventions since the 1970s, creating potentially disorienting effects for the pedestrians who walk along them. Some of the street paintings seem to morph in colour and shape, taking on movements of their own, as you cross.

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“The daily journey through urban spaces changes our personality and makes us into habitual beings who obey rules that nobody questions,” says Cruz-Diez. “The artist can create ephemeral expressions that, by generating completely new events, transform urban ‘linearity’ and at the same time inject an element of surprise into urban routine. These ephemeral works are a way of producing different readings of urban spaces and of deconsecrating the utilitarian objects of urban furniture.”

2. Faux Roadblocks Encourage Drivers to Stop

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Drivers might actually slow down for pedestrians trying to cross the street if they think their car could get damaged by barrelling forward - or at least, so hope two women in India who created this illusion.

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As you approach the intersection, it looks like there’s a roadblock, but it’s an anamorphic effect. As seen in the second photo, the technique has also been used in China.

3. Interactive Dancing Crosswalk Signal

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Tiny car manufacturer Smart hopes pedestrians will be so mesmerized by their animated dancing crosswalks signal, they’ll forget to jaywalk.


A nearby dancing booth translates the dance moves of passers-by into the ‘don’t walk’ silhouette, adding an element of interactivity and making the performance entirely unpredictable. Smart says 81% more people stopped at the light instead of walking out into the street while it was installed.

4. Virtual Speed Bumps

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The idea with faux speed bumps like these is to catch drivers’ attention just briefly enough to get them to slow down, but not so much that they cause a traffic disruption. Philadelphia hoped to boost safety in the streets with these triangular 3D markings, which cost a fraction of real speed bumps and require very little maintenance.

5. Virtual Wall Crosswalk

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If the illusion of road bumps isn’t enough for you, maybe a virtual wall projected right in front of your car will get you to hit the brakes when approaching a pedestrian crossing.

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This concept by designer Hanyoung Lee uses plasma laser beams to project oversized pedestrians in front of vehicles, making it very clear that they need to wait a minute before continuing.

6. The Peanuts Meet Abbey Road

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You might need some more coffee if you find yourself pausing in front of this intersection, waiting for the Peanuts gang to finish crossing the street, Abbey-Road-style.

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But the illusion is really effective from head-on, painted in anamorphic style at Universal Studios Japan.

7. Road Safety Illusion

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Another anamorphic street painting, this one by Canadian safety advocacy group Preventable.ca, encourages drivers to slow down by making it look like there’s a child in the middle of the road.

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Made of 3M concrete sidewalk vinyl, the intervention stretches for 40 feet and can only be seen from a distance of 100 feet.

8. Trapeze Artist Illusion

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Proposed for Main Street in Northampton, Massachusetts, this anamorphic crosswalk would position a trapeze artist in the middle of the street.


This position makes her shape clear only to the pedestrians on either side as they wait to cross.

9. Hopscotch Crosswalks in Downtown Baltimore

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Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus is a large-scale urban art project in Baltimore by artist Graham Coreil-Allen, bringing a sense of child-like playfulness to the city’s new Westside Arts and Entertainment District.

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Says the artist, “The Monumental City is played by giants among many - the business person, the bird, the worker and you. Hopscotch Crosswalk Colossus is an intersection of four over-sized hopscotch court crosswalks, each featuring a quintessential Baltimore path-print. Featuring the shoe, the bird track, the boot and the footprint, the project is a monument to the people who populate the Bromo Tower Arts & Entertainment District and make Baltimore the Greatest City in America.”

10. Time to Get III

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A manhole cover and a crosswalk bar become a wristwatch in ‘Time to Get III,’ a street painting in São Paulo, Brazil by collective 6EMEIA.

11. Tree Sprouts Painted Leaves as Pedestrians Cross

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Step onto a giant ink pad and then walk across an intersection in China to imprint green ‘leaves’ onto bare-branch tree silhouettes laid down by DDB China and the China Environmental Protection Foundation.

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Placed at 132 crosswalks in 15 cities, the installation aims to promote the environmental and health benefits of walking. Hope you don’t mind you shoes being covered in green paint!

12. Crosswalk Pong

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Play pong with another pedestrian waiting to cross the same street from the other side with this fun installation in Germany.


Branded ‘ActiWait’, the installation “offers pedestrians the possibility to convert boring waiting times into positive experiences. Through a touch screen which is installed in the upper shell of the button, people can interact with each other across the street.”

13. Pop-Up Crosswalk to the Arc de Triomphe

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The traffic circle surrounding one of Paris’ most famous monuments is notoriously difficult to cross, and authorities advise visitors to take a tunnel instead. But theatre group X/TNT wanted to make the Arc de Triomphe more accessible - at least temporarily - by adding a crosswalk to La Place de L’Etoile.


The guerrilla crosswalk performance art project was nicknamed ‘The Storming of the Etoile.’

14. Fist-Bump Crosswalk

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You’ll have to give a casual greeting to a giant yellow fist in order to cross certain intersections in Los Angeles thanks to ‘Walkbump’.


The walkbump is a DIY modification that adds some fun to the city with a little silicone and some glue.

Top image: The dancing traffic light manikin. Credit: Smart.

[Source: Web Urbanist. Edited.]

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