The New York City Department of Transportation’s commitment to street safety takes a poetic turn with a series of 12 signs combining eye-popping graphics with messages written in haiku by the artist John Morse.
“Curbside Haiku” uses public art as a vehicle to emphasize shared responsibility for urban street safety among cyclists, pedestrians and motorists.
The series, on display through fall 2012, is funded by a New York State grant, and was installed through the DOT’s Urban Art Program. It comprises 144 signs hung at traffic hubs near cultural institutions and schools where surveys indicate high crash rates.
Each safety message focuses on a category of transportation. For example, one sign warning cyclists about the dangers of “dooring” depicts a stylized figure flying off a bicycle. The accompanying haiku reads: “A sudden car door, Cyclist’s story rewritten. Fractured narrative.”
In introducing the campaign, NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan referred to creating “a steady rhythm for safer streets in the five boroughs.” Added artist Morse, the series is meant to engage and edify passersby who “discover” the eight-by-eight-inch signs.
The venture is a creative extension of assertive efforts to promote more livable streets through improved infrastructure, traffic-calming measures and public education. In the past decade, pedestrian fatalities have dropped by 25 percent, according to the NYC DOT.
You don’t have to visit NYC to enjoy the signs. Posters of the street art are for sale, with proceeds going to the Safe Streets Fund, NYC’s public-private partnership for traffic safety and education.