Colourful road murals may make an appearance on Saanich streets in 2020.
Through the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, Saanich resident and researcher Teale Phelps Bondaroff has been working to introduce artwork to the surface of roads as a way to calm traffic, beautify the District, highlight local artists and create community.
Phelps Bondaroff explained that aside from bringing the work of local artists to Saanich neighbourhoods, road murals have also been proven to be a cost-effective way to reduce drivers’ speeds. He figured that since road safety and speed reductions are big concerns in Saanich, road murals could be a timely solution.
The colours and textures draw the attention of drivers back to the roadway and remind them that there are other road users around, he explained, pointing out that often times bike lanes are painted a different colour for the same reason.
Road murals are the “nexus of placemaking and road safety,” he said.
He’s has been working to get the District to set guidelines for installing road murals for about a year so that the project can move forward and so anyone interested can make their own road mural. Saanich doesn’t currently have guidelines, but Victoria has rules and a guide.
The road mural project would also serve as a research project for Phelps Bondaroff as he plans to install the murals in zones where Saanich has speed reader boards set up. This way, motorists’ speeds before and after the installation of the mural can be compared and quantitative road safety data can be reported.
Phelps Bondaroff acknowledges that people may have concerns about the safety of the murals.
“Yes, they do distract drivers but in a good way,” he said. “It reminds them to keep their eyes on the road.”
He noted that 3D designs could be dangerous because they may cause drivers to swerve thinking there’s something real on the roadway. The Saanich road murals would be one dimensional designs using lines and solid colours.
Another concern that’s brought up involves paint making the roads slippery. Phelps Bondaroff pointed out that cities across North America have successfully combated this issue by choosing mural locations where the road is textured or by adding walnut shells to the paint to give it some grip.
He noted that road murals typically last up to a year if they’re on a residential road and can be touched up annually to make them last longer.
While the project is still in the planning stage, Phelps Bondaroff is hopeful that Saanich will have regulations completed by spring so he can move forward and students can be involved in murals installed in school zones.
Anyone interested in spearheading a road mural project can email Phelps Bondaroff at firstname.lastname@example.org for tips, help accessing durable, environmentally friendly paint and to connect with local artists. For more information on road murals, visit his website at teale.ca.