Walking On Painted Keys: Creative Crosswalks Meet Government Resistance - NPR

One of the newest pieces of public art in Rochester, N.Y., is right in the middle of Main Street. Or, more accurately, it's on the street.

Outside the Eastman School of Music, a group of volunteers repainted the crosswalk to look like three-dimensional piano keys in advance of the international jazz festival that happens here each year.

People walking by have been commenting on the artwork, but there's more here than meets the eye.

Intersections have had a pretty standard look in the United States for decades. The blank square of pavement, the white lines of crosswalks. Increasingly, urban designers and transportation planners say colorful crosswalks and engaging sidewalks lead to safer intersections, stronger neighborhoods and better public health. But the growing push for intersection creativity is meeting some resistance from the federal government.

And with pedestrian deaths in the U.S. at a 30-year high, those planners say, finding new ways to protect people from cars is becoming more urgent.

Just off Main Street, in Rochester's Beechwood neighborhood, there's another colorful intersection. The sidewalks here are green, the crosswalks are blue, and there's a big, red and yellow sun that covers the whole street. The art has been here a little over a year.

"Cars slowed down," says Joseph Hutchings, who has lived in the area for more than a decade. "Ain't nobody speeding up right here no more," he says. "People feel safer."

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