Art or hazard? Pedestrian crossing an 'optical illusion'
IF YOU'RE driving around Cairns any time soon, you might want to be careful for an unusual road obstacle.
Enormous blocks, seemingly floating above the road surface, look ready to do some serious damage to your Commodore.
But it's all just a trick of the eye as Cairns looks set to create Australia's first "floating" pedestrian zebra crossing in a bid to slow down the speed of perplexed motorists.
On Wednesday, Cairns Regional Council signed off on $30,000 of taxpayers' money to paint a "three-dimensional" zebra crossing outside a hotel and shopping complex in the CBD of the north Queensland tourist hub, reported the Cairns Post.
But some councillors have queried the cost of the project and slammed it as just an "art installation … an Escher drawing".
The concept is said to have originated in India's capital of New Delhi, with the idea then spreading to parts of Europe including Iceland.
Last year, Iceland's environment commissioner, Ralf Trylla, recreated the crossing in a remote town in the northwest of the country.
Mr Trylla said it only took a couple of weeks to gain all the necessary permits from the police and transport authority.
A report by Cairns Regional Council directly referenced the Icelandic example.
"A council in an Icelandic fishing village recently installed a 3D pedestrian zebra crossing which creates the impression that pedestrians are walking on white blocks suspended in the air," it said.
"The aim of this optical illusion was to change driver behaviour by encouraging drivers to think the pedestrian crossing is obstructing them, resulting in drivers slowing down."
From the point of view of pedestrians, the crossing actual looks distinctly two dimensional. The familiar white stripes have the addition of some grey and black painted blocks.
But for approaching cars, the various shades on the painted surface come together to create not only the illusion of blocks but also that pedestrians and cyclists are using the crossing as a bridge.
From the air, admittedly not the usual perspective, the scene is even more striking with the crossing transformed into towering plinth blocking the road.
"Residents in the town hope the pedestrian crossing will function not only as eye-catching artwork, but also as a form of protection for pedestrians on the town's residential streets," said the report.
However, the innovative crossing comes with some possible downsides, said council staff. Drivers could overreact to the optical illusion slamming their brakes on causing rear end crashes while pedestrians might congregate in the middle of the crossing to take snaps.
The crossing could even have the opposite effect with "driver distraction of the 3D 'artwork', possibly resulting in motorists to be inattentive of pedestrians crossing the road".
One councillor questioned whether $30,000 on a crossing was appropriate expenditure and if the installation would confuse motorists.
While another councillor, John Schilling, wondered if there was another motivation behind the crossing.
"Is it an art installation or is this being done for the safety of the community?" he asked. "It's not advancement in technology, this is just an Escher drawing."
Nevertheless, all but one councillor signed off on the move meaning motorists might soon get a shock when they see what appears to be solid blocks in the middle of the road.
The New Zealand city of Dunedin has taken the 3D concept one step further with two radically different designs introduced in 2017.
One crossing featured white blocks, albeit with the addition of feet so it looked like the crossing was moving.
Another crossing resembled a rushing river with painted stepping stones for pedestrians. It was this that has caused consternation with locals fearing it was so abstract, motorists might not recognise it as a crossing, reported the Otago Daily Times.
In Sydney, a rainbow crossing was painted across the busy thoroughfare of Oxford St in Darlinghurst, a suburb popular with LGBTI residents, to celebrate 2013's mardi gras.
Immensely popular with locals and tourists thronging to it, there were calls for the vibrant piece of street art to remain in place. But, following mardi gras, the State Government painted it back.
Cairns Regional Council will trial the 3D crossing for six months to see if it actually does slow down traffic.