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The Boston Globe

West

Crosswalk art project painting the way to safer streets in Newton

As part of Newton’s inaugural Walk/Bike Week, local business owners are joining with the city to transform a crosswalk into a painting, to draw attention to pedestrians and slow down traffic.

On Sunday, Lincoln Street in Newton Highlands will be closed to cars so that local artists and school children can paint environmentally friendly scenes between the white lines of the crosswalk and adjoining parking spaces.  

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Newton pedestrian coordinator Alicia Bowman said the city is looking into different ways to encourage traffic safety and the use of alternate forms of transportation.

“We managed to align the DPW, police, mayor, and other town officials behind the idea,” Bowman said. “It can be an exciting event, and inspire people to maybe think about walking, biking, or carpooling and then stopping for people in the crosswalk.”  

The idea to turn the street into a giant coloring book came from Annabelle Ship, who owns Green Planet Kids on Lincoln Street. When volunteers were trying to launch the Green Streets Initiative in Newton — an effort that promotes the use of sustainable, active transportation — Ship decided to get on board.

“We were standing at the front door chatting about the neighborhood, watching cars whizzing by,” she said, when one of the volunteers mentioned that painting streets has been found to calm traffic. Ship said she thought the retail district could benefit from trying it out.

The Newton Highlands shopping area is populated with independent shops. However, the closing of Baker’s Best last year began a ripple effect that took its toll on the area.

“I kept thinking, ‘How could we create community and try to get more spirit into the area, not just for people shopping here but for merchants?’ ” Ship recalled. Painting the crosswalk and parking spaces is a step in that direction, she said.

The original plan was to paint the entire street, Ship said, but the city thought it best to start out smaller and judge the project’s success. She and other organizers hope this will be the beginning of an annual event, and that one day the entire street will be filled with scenes of walking, biking, recycling, and nature.

“I’m picturing an unbelievable riot of color,” she said, “so people driving in will have to get out and walk around.”  

Children in grades 3 through 8 are invited to help paint the road, and adults and artists are welcome to lend a hand. Go to www.greenplanetkids.com or call 617-332-7841 to sign up.  

Also on Sunday will be a community bike ride, which the city hopes will attract families tolearn about how to ride safely and confidently while understanding how to deal with common problems that may arise.  

There will be bike safety and helmet checks before the ride for all participants.  

Newton Walk/Bike Week begins Friday and continues through next Wednesday. More details and a list of events can be found on the city’s website.  

Laura Franzini can be reached at laura.franzini@globe.com.
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