2011-12-02 / Top Stories

Department Of Transportation Unveils New ‘Curbside Haiku’

New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan recently announced “Curbside Haiku,” a new safety education campaign composed of 216 signs featuring colorful artwork and haikus by artist John Morse installed at a dozen high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools citywide that draw attention to the critical importance of shared responsibility among all street users to help keep New York City’s streets as safe as they can be.

Paid for using a State grant from DWI funds and installed through DOT’s Urban Art Program, the series includes 12 eye-catching designs with accompanying haikus that each delivers a targeted safety message by focusing on one transportation mode.

For example, a sign featuring the silhouette of “Walking Man” is paired with the haiku, “Too averse to risk / To chance the lottery, yet / Steps into traffic,” to remind pedestrians to follow and respect traffic safety rules when crossing the street.

Half of the signs will be hung in pairs, with the image and haiku text appearing; the remaining set feature an image with a QR code on the sign that lets New Yorkers discover the safety message via their smart phones.

The Commissioner and Morse unveiled the new signs at 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue in Manhattan, a Curbside Haiku hub that includes the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Future Leaders Institute school, and is within Community Board 10, a district where nearly 50 crashes a year resulted in a fatality or severe injury from 2006 to 2010.

“We’re putting poetry into motion with public art to make New York City’s streets even safer,” said Sadik-Khan. “These signs complement our engineering and education efforts to create a steady rhythm for safer streets in all five boroughs.”

“Curbside Haiku seeks to merge public art with public awareness to infuse a bit of beauty and joy into the public sphere with the images while underscoring the realities of the message with poetry,” said John Morse. “I’m aiming to engage, edify and inform and nothing does that better than art.”

DOT installed multiple 8-inch x 8-inch signs at strategic locations where passers-by can discover and decode their safety messages. DOT selected locations for “Curbside Haiku” signs based on a citywide analysis of crashes near various cultural institutions and schools.

The signs will be on view from now until next fall at a dozen hubs across the five boroughs, including near Brooklyn’s Transit Museum and the Brooklyn Museum; the Bronx Hub, Bronx Museum/ Grand Concourse and Bronx Zoo and New York Botanical Garden; Manhattan’s Studio Museum of Harlem and MoMA/International Center for Photography; Queens’ Jamaica Center for the Arts and the Staten Island Museum.

The signs were fabricated at DOT’s sign shop in Maspeth, Queens. A map of the 12 hubs and series of signs is available at www.nyc.gov/dot.

“Curbside Haiku” is the newest tool in DOT’s growing safety education portfolio, and is the second program launched through a joint effort between the agency’s Safety Education division and its Urban Art Program.

Earlier this year, they joined the nonprofit Groundswell to producecommunity murals with volunteers to share traffic-safety messages.

Curbside Haiku also follows DOT’s recent installation of the first neighborhood slow zone in Claremont, Bronx, and ongoing traffic-safety projects, such as the recent improvements at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, which have simplified traffic and created safer streets for all users.

The agency’s unprecedented focus to build safer streets has led to a more than 25 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities over the past decade, and continues to inspire creative approaches to achieving DOT’s aggressive goal of reducing all traffic fatalities by 50 percent by 2030.

John Morse’s poems and images for Curbside Haiku follow a 2010 citywide installation of 500 signs in Atlanta, Roadside Haiku, which also used signage as a canvas.

The artist has exhibited collages, installations, watercolors and poems in galleries across the United States.

To purchase signs, please visit www.safestreetsfund.org. Proceeds benefit the Safe Streets Fund, New York City’s public-private partnership dedicated to traffic safety education and awareness.

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