Eyes on the Street: To Transform an Intersection, Just Add Color

Photo: Aaron Bialick
Preliminary concepts for Bartlett and 22nd proposed last year. Image: SF Planning

At the most recent Sunday Streets in the Mission, Walk SF demonstrated how a little chalk can give a sense of place to an intersection. Just holding back the cars allows the community to add its own flair through color, transforming an asphalt expanse into a calmer, more people-oriented space.

“It helps to calm traffic. It signals to drivers that there’s a community here, to expect kids, to expect families, and to slow down,” executive director Nicole Schneider said on a car-free Valencia Street at 22nd Street. “It helps to bring the community together around a sense of place.”

Schneider’s chalk demo was just a short block away from the intersection of 22nd and Bartlett Street, where SF’s first permanently-painted intersection is set to arrive sometime next year, as part of a pedestrian-friendly revamp of Bartlett. Community-designed, painted intersections have been installed in recent years in cities like Portland and Seattle, Schneider noted.

People at the event asked Schneider whether cars can still drive over the murals — the answer is yes. So the murals shouldn’t result in a political furor, unlike many other suggestions to re-purpose any space that’s used to move and store cars. Painting the streets to create a safer and more convivial place seems like a low-cost no-brainer.

“I have gotten so much positive feedback,” said Schneider. “It’s just fun.”

A painted intersection in Portland. Photo: Jonathan Maus/Bike Portland
  • Jane

    I love this concept. And the Portland ones are lovely. But we have to use the right materials….some Portlanders tell me they’re slippery in the rain.

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