Genius at Work: NYC's Curbside Haiku

New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan announced "Curbside Haiku," a new safety education campaign for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, on Nov. 29. A total of 216 signs featuring artwork and haikus by artist John Morse have been installed at eye level at 12 high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools in the city.

A state grant from DWI funds paid for the 8-by-8-inch signs, which were installed through DOT's Urban Art Program. The poem with a sign showing a "Walking Man" silhouette is "Too averse to risk / To chance the lottery, yet / Steps into traffic," to remind pedestrians to follow traffic safety rules when crossing a street. A walking woman's silhouette in black under a moonlit sky is accompanied by "She walks in beauty / Like the night. Maybe that's why / Drivers can't see her."

The department said half of the signs will be hung in pairs, with the image and haiku text appearing; the others feature an image with a QR code so passers-by can discover the message on their smart phones.

Sadik-Khan and Morse unveiled the signs at 125th Street between Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and Lenox Avenue in Manhattan, in 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," Sadik-Khan said. "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 Morse. "I'm aiming to engage, edify, and inform, and nothing does that better than art."

Morse also provided poems and images for a "Roadside Haiku" installation of 500 signs in Atlanta last year, according to the department. To buy his NYC signs, visit Proceeds will benefit the Safe Streets Fund, a public/private New York City partnership for traffic safety education.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Dec 01, 2011

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