Traffic calming? City scares drivers with ’3D girl’ that runs into road

By Daniel Tencer
Friday, September 10, 2010 15:49 EDT
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For the past week, drivers on 22nd Street in the ritzy suburb of West Vancouver, British Columbia, have come across an alarming sight: A small girl running out into the road to chase a ball.

As their hearts leap to their throats and their feet move to the brake pedal, the drivers realize it’s an illusion — a “3D” image drawn on the pavement to get drivers to slow down.

The “3D girl” isn’t really 3D — it’s a cartoon drawn on the pavement in a distorted fashion so as to appear three-dimensional, the culmination of a pilot project from the British Columbia Automobile Association, an affiliate of the AAA, and the city of West Vancouver.

It’s an innovative idea that some critics say could cause accidents.

“I think it’s awful. I think it’s dangerous,” Sam Schwartz, a former traffic commissioner in New York City, told ABC News. “I think drivers are always scanning and suddenly they see this image up, they may very well panic.”

BCLocalNews reports that the pilot project has received criticism online, with one commenter calling it a “creepy optical illusion” and a “terrifying experience.”

But some residents of the Western Canadian city applaud the move to fight what they say is a chronic speeding problem in the 20mph speed zone outside Ecole Pauline Johnson, an elementary school.

“Every day there are hundreds of people dropping off their kids and going down this road at high speeds,” neighborhood resident Kirsten Pendreigh told the Toronto Star.

BCAA spokesman David Dunne defended the project, saying the illusion “reminds us to shift our attitudes, and drive as though you’d expect a child to run into traffic.”

West Vancouver’s manager of roads told the Vancouver Sun that the project may be expanded to other locations if it’s shown to calm traffic.

“Certainly it had a drastic effect,” Brent Dozzi said. “It’s in your face, but motorists react strongly.”

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