Nova Scotia

City scowls at artist's 3D crosswalk in Dartmouth

Halifax municipal officials will soon decide whether some street art in a Dartmouth neighbourhood has the potential to save lives — or is simply an act of vandalism.

Doug Carleton says illusion of raised crosswalk meant to slow drivers down

This Dartmouth, N.S., crosswalk has a 3D effect thanks to street artist Doug Carleton's strategic use of black paint. (StreetArtNS/Instagram)

Halifax municipal officials will soon decide whether some street art in a Dartmouth neighbourhood has the potential to save lives — or is simply an act of vandalism.

The artist in question, Doug Carleton, spent the past several weeks using black paint to create a 3D effect around a crosswalk. The goal is to make drivers slow down.

"This isn't art, this is about public safety," said Carleton. "The idea is not only that it's 3D and that it makes it look like it's about two feet above the ground, but that it pops when someone is walking across it."

Carleton used black paint to add shadows to the marked white crosswalk at the corner of Erskine and Elliot streets in Dartmouth. He painted in the early morning hours, when there was no one on the road.

His approach was: if you ask permission, it will never happen.

"I knew they would have said no," he said. "And I know that it's the sort of thing that you have to see to get."

Doug Carleton spent several weeks using black paint to create a 3D effect around a crosswalk, to make drivers to slow down. Now the city is threatening to remove the black paint. (Peter Sutherland/CBC)

The municipality, it seems, doesn't get it.

On Tuesday morning a small city crew arrived while he was painting and tried to wash it away. Carleton said he literally stood his ground over his art and the crew left.

By Tuesday afternoon the city had started to soften its stance.

"Municipal staff are currently reviewing the situation, with the safety of residents as our top priority," spokesperson Maggie-Jane Spray said in an email. "A decision will be made in the coming days regarding the status of the artwork at this crosswalk.

Update, Aug. 22, 2019: On Thursday morning, a municipal crew did remove Carleton's artwork from the crosswalk. 

On Thursday morning, municipal crews had successfully removed the paint that created the 3D effect. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The plan now, Carleton said, is to keep painting. When he's finished with the final touches, he hopes the illusion of a half-metre-high crosswalk will force drivers to slow down the moment they see it.

His local councillor, Sam Austin, likes it so far.

"I've looked around and other cities are trying this," he said. "Other cities are trying to do this kind of innovative things. Cities like Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Beaumont, Alberta, and Outrement, Montreal."

'Pretty harmless'

Austin said he believes whatever guiding principles the municipality's traffic division uses to govern crosswalk safety aren't working. People are still getting hit at crosswalks, and he said it's time for a fresh perspective.

"We never want to sanction people taking matters into their own hands and marking in the road, however I think it's pretty harmless and it's something that other cities are experimenting with," he said.

Carleton said he's getting overwhelmed by the sudden attention his street art has attracted.

"Leave me alone, that's all I want the city to do," he said. "Thank you, reporters, for helping me get the word out, but leave me alone, city."

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