Tuesday, August 24, 2010 - By Ben Berkowitz - 5 comments

It was only a matter of time...rebel crosswalk painters take to streets

It may appear slightly ironic to some that a website originally created for encouraging the removal of spray paint from a building has played an integral roll in adding spray paint to a street.

A few weeks ago there was an article in Good Magazine that highlighted citizens painting their own crosswalks in Brazil. Apparently a few SeeClickFixers have caught the same bug and have taken pedestrian safety into their own hands and into their own streets.

Witness here SeeClickFix issue number 1324. Crosswalk Faded! The issue was reported over two years ago and though it was acknowledged by the city it had yet to have been repaired.

After two years and reports of neighbors fearing for their safety it appears that someone has taken matters into their own hands an painted their own walk. I'm sure it will raise interesting debate over whether this is taking the "citizen fixing"initiative too far or is this exactly what we are pointing towards when talk about government as a platform for engagement.

I'll leave my own opinions out of this for now and just say that I'm inspired by the enthusiasm of this individual in respect to improving their community.

Your thoughts?


  1. Anonymous says:

    Aweseom. The city wants control for the sake of control. They don't care about safety or the fact it is 20x cheaper for residents to go out and paintthese themselves.

  2. Anonymous says:

    cool, but a totally new grassroots crosswalk (where one didn't exist prior) would be a great / welcome guerilla paint project... I'm thinking the five lanes of traffic between parking lot and a certain live/work art space in downtown Hartford.

  3. kewingct says:

    While I love the 'take care of it ourselves' attitude I have some major concerns. It seems that we have accepted the citizens versus government game and it is killing us.We're too busy screaming at each other to realize that we both want pretty much the same thing. I challenge you to present to me one person in City Hall who goes in every day just to figure out ways to screw the people. If you can present one then do so and lets get them to an institution where they can get some help.

    There is a reason for the rules. Most were put in place because somebody once did something stupid. Now we have a rule to keep somebody else from doing that same stupid thing.

    However you can control for stupid. We need a government that answers every citizen request with "how can we make this work without doing something stupid?" If you ask me that should be the first thing we look for in our Political representatives. Unfortunately that is not the prevailing attitude. And so we are forced to resort to these guerrilla tactics.

    The danger in this is that it can very easily become about the adrenalin from doing something sneaky. Next thing you know we forget all about trying to get a crosswalk. It becomes about doing something that 'the man' says we can't do. (Anarchy can be like crack if you aren't careful.) And when that happens we end up with somebody doing something stupid and we get a whole new set of rules and the government (who is tasked with keeping us from doing something stupid) has to crack down on us. Which leads to more anarchy. In the end very little gets done or it is done with so much effort that one often wonders if it was worth it. Or worse, it is done but at the expense of the most vulnerable.

    I think we need a citizenry that starts every request with "Can you help me/us..." and is then willing to work with that government that is asking "How can we make this work without doing something stupid?"

    I know it sounds like a fantasy but I think it could happen. This site is a good model of it happening. "People" partnering with "Government" (who, when they take off their special government costumes, are "people" just like us.) Everybody working together to get the things that need doing done. Then our city will thrive.

  4. JJS says:


    this wasn't acting out against government. this wasn't breaking a rule, really. it was taking one thing off the long to-do list that the city has racked up.

    this was two years of crossing a street, feeling like pedestrians are second class citizens to drivers. this was a reminder that slowing down for the presence of people is more important that speeding through a neighborhood for one's own selfish needs.

  5. kewingct says:


    I am a Community Organizer by profession. Direct Action is embedded in my DNA. I have both joined and led actions like this. Believe me I understand. Besides, this one sounds harmless and fun. Had I known about it I might have been there with my brush.

    I wasn't criticizing the action or invalidating the frustration of those who took part in it. Nor am I defending the city. I am merely suggesting the need for caution and consideration (and maybe even compassion.) If it isn't breaking a rule then why are you called 'rebel'? What are you rebelling against? Just something to think about before striking out. Particularly when it leads to attacking an individual. (Again I feel I must justify a statement. I am not suggesting that we don't go after an incompetent city worker (and we must remember that they are also 'workers') if they are in the way. Lord knows I have frequently called for the retraining or removal of a government employee.) See my previous post again.

    One of the most important aspects of an Action is the post-action evaluation. Among other things in this evaluation you want to ask the question, "Did the message we wanted to send get across and are people paying attention?" Or in this case, "Are the cars slowing down and is it changing driver's attitudes?"

    Let me know about the next one. I got my reflective vest and paintbrush ready to go.

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