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New Traffic Signs Use Poetry to Promote Safety Message

As you navigate the streets of New York City, you will likely encounter a variety of signs announcing various vehicle traffic laws (i.e., speed limits, parking restrictions, handicap spaces, etc.) and warning of dangers to pedestrians. In general, these signs are fairly straightforward and understandably void of any sort of artistic flair. However, this may no longer be the case on many streets throughout the five boroughs

As of Tuesday, select city locations are now featuring traffic signs bearing unique artwork and a haiku, meaning a Japanese-style poem comprised of three lines of non-rhyming poetry, each of which meets a specific syllable count.

The new signs were released as part of the "Curbside Haiku" campaign, which is designed to promote safe streets for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.

"We're putting poetry into motion with public art to make New York City's streets even safer," said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "These signs complement our engineering and education efforts to create a steady rhythm for safer streets in all five boroughs."

Some of the curbside haiku signs bear the following verses to go along with their colorful images:

  • "Too averse to risk/To chance the lottery, yet/Steps into Traffic"
  • "A sudden car door/Cyclist's story rewritten/Fractured narrative"
  • "Aggressive driver/Aggressive pedestrian/Two crash dummies"

Commissioner Sadik-Khan had a quick answer for those who questioned the purpose of the signs.

"What we've learned is that the more innovative the message and with a little bit of humor, or something a little offbeat, is a much more effective form of communication," she said.

The 216 curbside haiku signs are posted near schools, cultural landmarks, and locations with a high accident rate throughout the city. They will be up for roughly nine months and rotated during this time.

Still, not all New Yorkers are convinced of the utility of the new signs.

"It's interesting, it's cute. It's just going to have more people blocking this corner of the sidewalk when you're trying to cross," said one woman, who added the following when asked if the signs were helpful. "Not particularly. I find watching where I'm going to be very effective."

What are your thoughts on curbside haiku?

If you have been issued a traffic citation, fight to keep your driving privileges and your insurance premiums as low as possible. Consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Stay tuned for further developments from our New York vehicle traffic law blog ...


CBS-New York, "New York City using poetry to promote safety" Nov. 29, 2011

Insurance Journal, "New York City introduces haiku poetry signs to promote traffic safety" Nov. 30, 2011

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