Plans made for Columbia street mural and bicycle boulevard

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:40 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 17, 2009

COLUMBIA — Following in the footsteps of communities across the country, city leaders have made a plan to paint a mural on the pavement at the intersection of Windsor and Ripley streets.

Five years ago Kip Kendrick, president of the Benton-Stephens Neighborhood Association, suggested painting a mural on the pavement of a local intersection.

He got the idea after listening to a speech by a representative from City Repair, a group based in Portland, Ore., that encourages communities to transform the places they live, Kendrick said. The organization's most popular project was Sunnyside Piazza, a giant sunflower painted on the pavement at an intersection.

“The project had been a great community building exercise for neighborhoods, as well as a way to calm traffic in residential areas,” Kendrick said.

GetAbout Columbia is working with the Benton-Stephens neighborhood on a two-part plan to paint a street mural and construct the city's first bicycle boulevard.

The project will be presented to the City Council in mid-July, said Ted Curtis, GetAbout Columbia manager.

If approved by the City Council, the bicycle boulevard would be implemented first, likely sometime in September, Curtis said. Volunteers would then paint the mural.

City involvement and funding for the mural would be minimal. The only expense would be paint, and recycled paint from the city could be used, but the mural would not last forever.

“There is a limited life on things like these," Curtis said. "It would be up to the community to decide to let it wear out or repaint it.”

The merits of the mural turn on both aesthetic and safety reasons, which can be seen in Ocean City, N.J., where residents painted a large compass onto an intersection adjacent to a bike path.

“While we have not had any previous incidents on the bike path, we believe the design has heightened awareness of the bike path and the need for drivers to slow down,” said Leslie Skibo, president of Community Arts Projects, the organization that initiated the project.

Ocean City’s mural has been successful at slowing traffic, and they have made plans to paint streets outside a high school and primary school, Skibo said.

Murals can also help deter crime because they reflect a close-knit community that keeps watch over its environment, according to Paint The Pavement, a Minnesota placemaking organization.

Placemaking is a movement where community members get together to improve generic public spaces and form functional community spaces. Their projects include street murals as well as gardens and outdoor seating areas.

Other potential mural locations being considered by GetAbout Columbia are the intersections of Ash Street and Hubbell Drive or Ash Street and St. Joseph Street.

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