Milwaukee Unveils Paint the Pavement Program


The City of Milwaukee Department of Public Works recently introduced its Paint the Pavement program to transform city streets and sidewalks while creating a sense of community. The new program builds off the previous Decorative Crosswalk program from 2018, increasing the types of murals that are eligible.

“This program turns city streets and sidewalks into canvases that help enhance community identity and build a sense of place,” wrote the DPW.

Now, crosswalks, sidewalks, residential intersections, residential streets and curb extensions are all eligible to become murals in the city. Murals will require two permits—a Paint the Pavement Permit Application and a Special Event Permit. There is no fee to participate in the program, but applicants may be charged a fee for any barricades that are provided. The applicant must also fund the design, materials, installation and other costs.

“Paint the Pavement builds on the Decorative Crosswalk program which premiered as a creative way to showcase streets as places for people to enjoy," said Interim Commissioner of Public Works Jerrel Kruschke.

"Paint the Pavement is another example of the Department of Public Works’ commitment to this and aligns with other initiatives such as Active Streets, our parklet program, and special events permitting.”

In terms of design, artworks can only include decorative design and patterns, and cannot contain text, numbers or symbols. The designs created should be intended to enhance the public right-of-way and should draw people into portions of the street not intended for their use.

For the paint, only street-grade paint that is firm, stable and slip resistant may be used. An anti-skid additive is also required. Additionally, the paint must not be retroreflective and must be ASTM certified.

More information and examples of previously completed projects can be found here.

Asphalt Art and Safety

Earlier this year, according to a study conducted by Bloomberg Philanthropiescity streets are reportedly safer for pedestrians when the asphalt roadways are painted with art, reducing the rate of car crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists by 50%.

The Asphalt Art Safety Study, produced by Sam Schwartz Consulting, examined the impact of art on the streets by comparing historical crash rates and real-time behavior of motorists and pedestrians at several asphalt art sites before and after project installation.

Bloomberg’Asphalt Art Initiative grant program is designed to fund visual art on roadways, pedestrian spaces and public infrastructure in cities. According to the organization, these projects are typically painted murals, which are organized in collaboration between the city government and local community.

The program, with 42 asphalt art projects in the United States and three pilot projects in Europe, aims to tackle three goals:

  • Improve street and pedestrian safety;
  • Revitalize and activate underutilized public space; and
  • Promote collaboration and civic engagement in local communities.

The Asphalt Art Safety Study was released in March, with two main components: a Historical Crash Analysis and an Observational Behavior Assessment. According to the study, the analysis found significantly improved safety performance across a variety of measures during periods when the art was installed.

The Historical Crash Analysis compared crash data to and after the introduction of asphalt art at 17 diverse study sites with at least two years of data. A “dramatic” reduction in motor vehicle crash rates after the projects were installed were reportedly found, including a 50% drop in crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 37% drop in crashes leading to injuries.

The Observational Behavior Assessment compared before and after video footage of motorist and pedestrian behavior at five U.S. locations with asphalt art projects installed in 2021 as part of the Asphalt Art Initiative. In this analysis, researchers found a 27% increase in the rate of drivers yielding to pedestrians with the right-of-way as well as a 25% drop in potentially dangerous conflicts between drivers and pedestrians.

Based on the study’s findings, the organization recommends an expansion of this study to include asphalt art sites in a variety of roadway and land use contexts, allowing for a more detailed assessment of what project elements are most effective, such as the art itself or other improvements. By contributing to this research, the study team reports that it hopes to encourage more arts-focused transportation projects that contribute to safer city streets around the world.

The full Asphalt Art Safety Study can be viewed here.


Tagged categories: Asphalt; Coating Application; Coating Materials; Color; Color + Design; Design; Murals; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Roads/Highways

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