Ken Larsen's web site - Colorful crosswalks are a bad idea


In 2016 my town of Chapel Hill, NC began installing some colorful crosswalks as a pilot project.  They look pretty, but I think they're a bad idea.  Crosswalks are a safety feature, and as such there needs to be standardization across the whole world.  Otherwise, out-of-town people will get confused and ignore them.  By way of example, imagine the chaos that would ensue if Chapel Hill switched red traffic lights to blue, or specified that people drive on the left side of the road instead of the right side ... just to be different.  Back in the early 1980s one of my managers and three others were killed in Scotland when the driver of their car got confused over which side of the road to drive on. 


There are over 18,000 towns in the United States.  If each decided to pursue its own design for crosswalks, that would be a big confusing mess, in my opinion.  KISS is needed ... "Keep it Simple, Stupid."


Colorful crosswalk on Willow Drive in Chapel Hill.  I don't find it to be particularly visible at night.

I believe that colorful crosswalks are a bit more expensive to create and maintain, but to me the big problem is the confusion factor.

Traditional crosswalk.  It's called a "Zebra Crossing" and is used in many places around the world.

To voice your opinion on Chapel Hill's colorful crosswalks, contact Kumar Neppalli, Traffic Engineering Manager for the Town: <>.  The colorful crosswalks did not originate from the Town Council.

(April 6, 2016) Daily Tar Heel article: Chapel Hill makes moves to liven up street safety with colorful crosswalks   My name and opinion are mentioned.

(February 21, 2017) Today I received two pictures of new crosswalks from Dan Cefalo, Chair of the Chapel Hill Arts Commission (CHCAC).  CHCAC is an 11 member commission that consists of 10 Chapel Hill residents and 1 Carrboro resident.  They advise and assist in the cultural arts of our town.  All members apply and are selected by town council.  They meet once a month (3rd Wednesday of the month) at the library from 5:30-7:00 pm.  Their meetings are open to the public.  They welcome and encourage input from fellow residents.

UNC Old Well design.  It looks pretty, but I still prefer the standard "Zebra crossing" because of its worldwide standardization.
"These are based on the UPC code off of a UNC t-shirt that is sold on campus and on Franklin Street.  
The cost including artist pay and special paint is $3000.  The cost of a traditional crosswalk is $1500.  
The funding was from a percent for arts grant from over 10 years ago." -Dan Cefalo

I prefer the Old Well design over this one, but, again, I prefer the Zebra crossing overall because of its worldwide standardization.  Call me an old fuddy-duddy.

Dan went on to say:

The committee discussed the project for close to one hour.  Topics discussed were:

1. The designs would be carried out by a painting firm contracted by the city
2. The designs meet ADA requirements
3. The locations were all selected by the town’s traffic engineer
4. The selection committee in reviewing all the proposals looked at the designs’ aesthetic quality, their feasibility, if they meet the requirements for traffic safety, and if they incorporated a town identity. 
5. If using the old well as a symbol might have copyright implications
6. How the designs would be perceived by the communityand those using the crosswalks
7. How the designs would stand up to traffic and other environmental factors


CAAC then made the following assessment:

1. The committee unanimously supports the project and feels it is a worthwhile endeavor.    
2. Of the designs presented, the two most supported were ones shown above.


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