This town is painting 3D crosswalks near elementary schools to get drivers to slow down

Nate Swain's World

Students in a Massachusetts elementary school recently had to think outside the box to help solve a local traffic problem. Too many drivers were not stopping at one of the crosswalks near their school so that people could cross, even though there was a stop sign at the intersection.

Things may have continued on like this, despite concerns for student safety — until then Brooks Elementary School fourth-grader Eric Dodson’s brother had a close call with a car in the intersection, and Eric and his friend Isa decided enough was enough.


“We were thinking of a way we could do something to help make the street safer,” Isa, Dodson’s project partner, told CBS Boston.

Their idea was to propose a supposed three-dimensional crosswalk in the problematic intersection. Inspired by other, similar projects in Iceland and China, the dynamic duo took their idea to Medford’s Center for Citizenship and Social Responsibility, an organization that funds student-led projects to improve communities.


After talking to Medford Mayor Stephanie Muccini Burke, the students got an invitation to pitch their idea to the local traffic commission and explain how these 3D crosswalks work. They were eventually given the go-ahead.

The concept is quite simple, really. Instead of painting flat, white lines to mark a crosswalk on the road, painters use shadows and shading to make the lines to give the illusion that there are large blocks in the middle of the road.


“When you’re walking across you can tell it’s painted,” said Isa, “but what we hope is, when you’re driving down, you’ll see it as 3D, three dimensional. So it looks real.”

Artist Nate Swain painted the special crosswalk near Brooks Elementary School. He redesigned the original crosswalk on the road.


With careful measurements, nails and string, Swain laid out the 3D design before adding the appropriate shading and colors to make the crosswalk appear to transform to concrete blocks in the middle of the road. Pretty clever!

You can learn more about the process in the YouTube video below:

He shared a second YouTube video of himself painting the crosswalk in the rain:

Swain also posted the finished result on his Instagram profile. The image shows the new crosswalk in front of a row of traffic cones.

“3D Crosswalk in Medford,” he wrote alongside the image.

So far, the new crosswalk seems to be getting a positive response. The kids responsible for getting the projct off the ground are thrilled with the results.

“I love it. It looks amazing,” Isa said. “Exactly how I pictured it and more.”

Locals also seem to be on board with the newly installed 3D crosswalk. One resident posted this photo of the street to the school’s Facebook page:

“Nice crosswalk!” one commenter wrote in response to the picture.

This isn’t the first time this method has been used. A small fishing town in Iceland of Ísafjörður adopted a similar crosswalk back in 2017, as seen in the image below.

As in the case of this Massachussetts town, the crosswalk was painted to look like it remains hovering over the street — an effect that helps to slow down traffic and reduce driving speeds in the narrow residential streets.

Those efforts later inspired some stateside cities to take the same tactic.In 2018, city authorities in Kansas City installed a 3-D crosswalk in one of its neighborhoods in an effort to slow down speeding motorists.

“We thought it was cool and attractive and that it would have an effect on safety, so we wanted to try it …We came here to talk to (the homeowner’s association) about it and they had an interest to maintain the low speed along the neighborhood, so we saw this as an opportunity to try this,” Lideana Laboy, a city traffic engineer for the Public Works Department, told the Kansas City Star at the time.

What do you think of the 3D crosswalk? Should this idea be adopted in other school zones?

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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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