Colourful Crossing, what are they?

Some time ago, we looked in to running a ‘Pretty Pothole’ project through Accessible News, it would involve putting flowers in the potholes around the community.

We were hoping it would have a number of benefits, firstly draw attention to how bad the road surfaces are, potholes, uneven surfaces and loose debris can cause difficulties for disabled people.  Secondly, it was filling in those holes and making them more visible so that people didn’t get stuck or trip.  Thirdly, it would brighten up the community; cheer people up, a bit of colour never hurt anyone, except it can!

There is a new craze spreading through cities, pedestrian crossings painted over with brightly coloured, often abstract, artistic designs, see some examples below:

While some may think they are beautiful, colourful and artistic they pose many problems for a lot of people.  Crossings are a necessity to access one side of the pavement from another, these crossings pose a risk to people with visual impairments, the consistency and predictability of signage is fundamental to being able to navigate safely and independently.

The majority of visually impaired people have some sight. Designs and colours used on pedestrian crossings which are not consistent with traditional designs could cause confusion and risk safety. The use of black and white in traditional pedestrian crossings offer high contrast which is essential for people with low vision to detect them and stay on course when crossing roads.

Traditional zebra crossing

We have also heard accounts from visually impaired people with light sensitivity who find the artwork painful to look at.  It is also a concern for people with dementia who can often experience perceptual problems called ‘misperceptions’ where they view one thing as something completely different such as a dark area on the floor could look like a hole or blue paint could look like water, this can make people disoriented and scared.

Because of the pandemic and the restrictions to travel the streets were transformed; with widened pavements, traffic calming measures, additional space for cycling, and more. Many of these changes were rolled out at pace, and implemented without consultation with disabled people.  We completely understand that there was an urgency to make changes and that consultation and discussions would have been time consuming however, this road art is of no urgency, costs a considerable amount of money and once again leaves disabled people as an afterthought.