Road Murals In Saanich
Road murals are placemaking elements that serve as an effective tool for increasing road safety while simultaneously encouraging creativity, the arts, and building community.
This project, through the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, seeks to introduce road murals to Saanich, and measure their effectiveness for reducing speeds and increasing road safety.
The project is currently underway! If you are interested in taking the lead on installing a road mural on your street in Saanich, please get in touch!
One mural has already been installed in Saanich on Falaise Crescent as a pilot.
Road Mural Resources
The evidence suggests that road murals increase road safety. The bright colours and designs of a road mural draw and focus the attention of drivers to the road and their surroundings, and also serve to remind them that there are people around. This is why numerous jurisdictions have used road murals as a beautiful and cost-effective form of traffic calming (see for example Source 1; Source 2; Source 3; Source 4; Source 5; Source 6; Source 7; Source 8).
This is also why bike lanes are often demarcated with different coloured surfaces (Source 1; Source 2; Source 3), and why communities that install woonerfs (living streets or shared streets) will demarcate the special nature of this street by using a different coloured or textured road surface (Source 1).
The impact of road murals can be viewed the same way that street trees and proper landscaping reduce speeding and increase driver attention (see Source 1; Source 2; Source 3). Likewise, studies into the use of 'peripheral hatched markings' have found these straightforward line markings on highways to reduce speeding (Source 1; Source 2). Those interested in this kind of research will also find these sources of interest (Source 1; Source 2).
While there is considerable evidence that road trees increase road safety, a quantitative analysis of the impact of road murals on vehicle speeds and road safety is limited. One study of the impact of road murals was conducted in Kitchener, Ontario, found that "there was a 5 km/h reduction in the 85th percentile speeds immediately after installation" (Source 1, p.30). As reported, "in Mount Hope Breithaupt Park neighborhood, residents designed an intersection mural at the intersection of Ahrens Street and Wilhelm Street. Speeds were reduced from 48 km/h to 43 km/h. The 'Walking on Sunshine' decorative crosswalk at Lancaster Street and Chapel Street saw speeds reduced from 49 km/h to 44 km/h. In both cases, speeds were already fairly low, so these reductions are a huge success."
A recent Asphalt Art Safety Study, by Sam Schwartz Consulting and Bloomberg Philanthropies looked at 17 sites with art on surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, and underpasses in the USA. This study "found a dramatic reduction in motor vehicle crash rates after the projects were installed, including a 50% drop in crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 37% drop in crashes leading to injuries." Looking at videos of driver and pedestrian behaviour at five recently installed sites, the study "found a 27% increase in the rate of drivers yielding to pedestrians with the right-of-way as well as a 25% drop in potentially dangerous conflicts between drivers and pedestrians" (Source).
Read more about the impacts of road murals in articles from Fast Company and Planetizen.
One of the goals of this project in Saanich is to evaluate the impact of road murals through empirical data, such as comparing speed reader board results before and after projects.
Road murals also represent a cost effective method of traffic calming. The cost of installing hard traffic calming infrastructure can be considerable. For example, the 'Traffic Calming Guide for Toronto' (p.11), provides the following estimates:
Speed bumps: $1,000 - $5,000.
Chicanes: $15,000 - $50,000.
Curb extensions: $50,000 - $100,000.
Traffic islands: $5,000 - $15,000.
Traffic circles: $15,000 - $50,000.
Raised intersections: $50,000 - $100,000.
The cost of installing and maintaining a road mural can vary considerably depending on variations in the size and coverage of the mural, the sourcing of the paint, the need for municipal permits, whether or not a professional artist is hired, and touch-up requirements, they are considerably cheaper than all but the cheapest speed bump.
Costs can always be reduced through creative measures, such as sourcing skills and materials from neighbours. Those looking at installing their own road mural should be aware of the following estimated costs:
Artist Honorarium (using CARFAC standard rates for 3 days of preparation and 1 day of installation): ~$1,500
High quality road-grade paint ($400 per mural, per application, allowing for one re-paint): $800
Other costs which you will want to consider will be whether or not your municipality charges for the necessary permits, refreshments for planning and painting community volunteers, and project sun setting/retirement costs. When it comes to removing your road mural, should this be necessary, I have sourced a local contractor who charges $80/hour, and the duration of the job depends on the paint coverage.
Other Benefits of Road Murals
Road murals also provide the additional benefits of brightening and beautifying neighbourhoods, promoting art and education (particularly when designed and installed in concert with a school or youth group), and building community by bringing neighbours together as part of the planning, painting, and maintenance processes.
Road murals can also be used to create place identity: helping to create a specific character for the street. This is the magic of placemaking - it brings people together, helps them create a relationship with the spaces in which they inhabit, and fosters connections between people.
Guidelines for Installing your Road Mural
1) Involve the Community/Neighbours: Involve neighbours at every stage of the process; from planning, painting, to maintenance. One of the great benefits of placemaking is not only does it beautify our communities, but it brings us together. Develop a design that fits with your community!
2) Hire a Local Artist: If you are going for anything other than a basic design, I recommend hiring a local artist. An artist is invaluable in translating community member ideas into a concrete design, planning out the mural, and execution. If you need help connecting with a local mural artist or are a local artist interested in getting involved in these kinds of projects, please get in touch.
3) Pick a Good Location: Select a location that has moderate traffic and that could benefit from additional traffic calming. While heavy traffic roads are ideal from a traffic calming perspective, these murals will quickly fade. A slightly textured road surface will help increase the longevity of the mural, and also address any concerns about the impact of the paint on road traction.
4) Design Your Mural: Work with your neighbours to come up with a design that fits your street and its sense of place. Maybe a bunch of people on your street have a chicken share? Or there's an annual event you want to celebrate?
5) Keep Safety in Mind: Road murals are all about making our roads safer, and people will sometimes raise concerns about the impact of paint on road surfaces and traction. When designing your mural, try to include sufficient blank space (non-painted areas) to ensure adequate roadway grip. For added grip you could consider adding ground up walnut shells into the paint. Please avoid using micro-plastic 'grit', as these will end up in our waterways.
Avoid installing your road mural near road markings to avoid confusing motorists. Also, avoid including the use of shapes and colours that have specific meanings in traffic control devices (e.g., yellow or white paint, triangular or arrow shapes, etc.).
6) Use the Right Paint: Use good quality, low-toxicity, lead-free exterior latex paint. For more information about paint choice and other similar questions, see the resources below.
7) Have a Plan: Road murals require regular maintenance. Vehicular traffic causes them to wear down and fade. You should plan for an annual repainting party to freshen up the colours (or expand your mural). The exact repainting schedule will depend on the amount of traffic at your site. You should also plan for the end of the project, whether this involves painting over the mural with a new one, or removing it from the road (see city guidelines below).
8) Get the Appropriate Permits: Different municipalities have different regulations regarding road murals. I am compiling these regulations below. Check with your municipality about any permits you may require for the project. You will often need a permit to install a mural (and approval on the design), as well as a permit to close down the street when you are ready to paint.
9) Apply for Funding: Small community grants may be available for projects like these, depending on your municipality and community. Speak with your municipality well in advance so that you don't miss any deadlines. You can find many of the resources you need to complete an application on this page. If you need anything else, get in touch, I'm happy to help.
If you are looking for great resources on road murals, check out:
By-Laws, Regulations, and Guidelines Across the CRD
I am attempting to collect relevant by-laws, regulations and guidelines pertaining to the installation of road murals in municipalities across the CRD in order to help folks install murals in their communities. You will notice that the list is rather thin on the ground at the moment. Stand by for updates.
Victoria: Mural Tool Kit.
Saanich: Road Mural Guidelines - In development.
Esquimalt: Unknown - Did not respond.
Oak Bay: Nothing specific.
Langford: Unknown - Did not respond.
Colwood: Unknown - Did not respond.
Central Saanich: Unknown - Did not respond.
Sooke: Unknown - Did not respond.
Sidney: Street and Traffic Bylaw currently restricts marking the street.
North Saanich: Detailed response.
View Royal: Nothing specific, investigating.
Metchosin: Unknown - Did not respond.
Highlands: No specific public art policy.
Falaise Crescent Road Mural - Saanich
On Saturday, August 13, 2022 I worked with volunteers from the Falaise Community Association, the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, and neighbourhood, to install a road mural on Falaise Crescent in Saanich.
With the support of local artist Desiree Shelley, a team of 40 volunteers from the Falaise Community Association (FCA), the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network (GVPN), and the community painted a mural onto the surface of the road across from Falaise Park.
Volunteers installing a road mural on Falaise Crescent, Saanich.
Installing a road mural on Falaise Crescent, Saanich.
Installing a road mural on Falaise Crescent, Saanich.
Volunteers installing a road mural on Falaise Crescent, Saanich.
The mural was designed by Shelley, who worked with neighbours to develop a design that reflected the identity of the street, and portrays a motif of yellow montane violets. The yellow montane violet was chosen because Falaise Park is one of the few places in the region where this rare flower has been found. It was identified by long-time resident and artist Tannis Warburton, who alerted the Ministry of Environment, and who is now honoured by a plaque in the park.
The project is a first for Saanich, and has been installed as a pilot. I worked with Saanich to develop road mural guidelines and I will be studying the impact of the road mural on vehicle speeds on the street. The FCA will maintain the mural and throw a repainting part next summer.
The project was led by the Falaise Community Association with support from the Greater Victoria Placemaking Network, and received funding from a Community Well‐Being and Placemaking Projects Grant from the District of Saanich.