A downtown Kitchener intersection is now home to colourful new street art with a practical intent - to slow traffic through the area.
The artwork painted at the intersection of Wilhelm St. and Ahrens St. W. is part of a one-year pilot project to reduce traffic accidents by the local neighbourhood association,
"I talked to a number of people who had accidents at this intersection," said Lane Burman, co-chair of the Mt.Hope Breithaupt Park Neighbourhood Association. "The most serious was involving a cyclist, and that was really the tipping point for us to say, 'We need to do something, and we need to do it now.'"
The neighbourhood association began talks with the city over a year ago to find a way to make the intersection safer, said Burman. The city ruled out a four-way stop, and moving a mailbox and parking spot proved ineffective.
"We said, 'Hey, look what they're doing in Halifax," said Burman, adding that street art in Portland, Oreg. also provided inspiration for the on-street mural.
The circular piece was created by local designer Jon Johnson, with input from the neighbourhood association. Johnson says it's based on Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite hex signs.
"[They] were painted on barns in order to keep bad things out and good things in," said Johnson. "It seemed appropriate for the centre of an intersection where you want to slow down traffic and make it a safe place, not a scary place."
The artwork also includes hand prints from community members who helped paint it, as well as familiar symbols of Kitchener.
"We brought in the icons of local industry, of the boot and the shirt and chair and the suitcase," said Johnson. "Then also I wanted to bring in the buttons, which are another historical industry in the area."
The blue outer ring of the painting is meant to evoke the Grand River, he said.
During the pilot project, the city will collect data on the street art's effect on calming traffic. The project runs until next July.