Cityvisitor blog

The Art of Deception

A 1998 study in Sweden revealed that rather than braking when approaching a zebra crossing, motorists were more likely to maintain their speed or in some cases actually accelerate towards it.

Similar situations were reported in the UK, with a 2001 Metro article predicting the extinction of the black and white crossing due to a growing reluctance in drivers to stop. Attempts to improve their effectiveness included the addition of speed cameras and increased fines but they proved futile; the number of fatalities is ever increasing, tragically ironic as the crossings were introduced as a safe place for pedestrians to cross.

But, according to reports from China and India, the solution is surprisingly simple. Local authorities in both countries have been replacing the two-dimensional road markings with brightly coloured optical illusions that rise like roadblocks in the distance, forcing oncoming traffic to slow down. Introduced in India just a few months ago, these 3D crosswalks have been used successfully in China since 2008.

Sceptics have suggested that this strategy could do more harm than good, causing alarmed drivers to brake suddenly or swerve into oncoming traffic. However, the illusion can only be achieved from a certain perspective and thus for the driver travelling towards the markings ‘the effect is fleeting – just perceptible enough that it catches drivers’ eyes, but not so much it’s distracting’ ( Instead, the creative designs serve more as an advanced warning, deceiving motorists into slowing down and making crossing the road safer.

As of yet, there are no known plans to bring the 3D designs to the UK, perhaps the Department for Transportation are struggling to come up with an appropriate zoological name.



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