Pedestrians walk into a crosswalk and plant green leaves with every footstep. A campaign by DDB China Group uses street art to promote walking. While there is no guarantee that awareness will shift in a country that now boasts 500 million cars; it is an advocacy movement taking one step at a time.
“We decided to leverage a busy pedestrian crossing; a place where both pedestrians and drivers meet. We lay a giant canvas of 12.6 meters long by 7 meters wide on the ground, covering the pedestrian crossing with a large leafless tree. Placed on either side of the road beneath the traffic lights, were sponge cushions soaked in green environmentally friendly washable and quick dry paint. As pedestrians walked towards the crossing, they would step onto the green sponge and as they walked, the soles of their feet would make foot imprints onto the tree on the ground. Each green footprint added to the canvas like leaves growing on a bare tree, which made people feel that by walking they could create a greener environment.”
After an initial deployment on seven Shanghai streets, the award-winning Crossing was later expanded to 132 roads in 15 Chinese cities. DDB estimates that 3.9 million people participated. Predictably, it blew up across Chinese media channels, and was even featured in the Shanghai Zheng Da Art Museum.
The late Hans Monderman was a Dutch traffic engineer and former driving instructor. His work in redesigning roads redefined the relationship between pedestrians and drivers.
He knew that drivers were more reliant on road markings, signs, and signals than on their common sense and intelligence. If drivers face more uncertainty and have to choose who has ‘right of way’, they are more likely to slow down. Everyone, pedestrian and drivers alike, become more responsible. “A wide road with a lot of signs is telling a story,” Monderman said. “It’s saying, go ahead, don’t worry, go as fast as you want, there’s no need to pay attention to your surroundings. And that’s a very dangerous message.” (Quoted in: http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2004/12/18/roads-gone-wild/)
Monderman’s simple roads featured public art, landscape and lighting. His early success in reducing vehicle speed in the Dutch village of Oudehaske attracted further work in more than 100 towns and villages. His redesign of complex intersections and shopping streets caught the attention of professionals and politicians beyond the Netherlands. The EU initiated a “shared space” program based on his planning principles.
TV journalists would interview the humble Monderman in the middle of a busy stream of traffic. He would demonstrate his confidence in the responsible adaptability of drivers by walking backwards into the traffic.
He died from cancer, aged 62.
Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shared_space