Check Out Austin’s New Polka-Dotted Intersection Neckdowns

This new painted polka-dot intersection bumpout was design to make a dangerous intersection safer and more comfortable for pedestrians. Photo: Austin Mobility
This new painted polka-dot intersection neckdown was design to make a dangerous intersection safer and more comfortable for pedestrians. Photo: Austin Mobility

Safer streets for pedestrians don’t have to be expensive, or boring, for that matter. That’s the lesson from Austin’s new polka-dotted intersection neckdowns.

In an effort to get drivers to slow down and give extra room to those on two feet, the city recently installed this colorful intersection treatment at the intersection of East 6th Street and Waller in East Austin.

Photo: Austin, Tx.
Photo: City of Austin

According to Anna Martin, an engineer with Austin DOT, the project was completed in under a day using paint and other materials the department already had on hand.

We drew out the plan for the new stop bars and crosswalks. Noticing the extra space, we thought of adding the pedestrian bulb-outs. It is expensive to do with concrete but we thought to just improvise with markings and delineators. The polka dots were a final addition – taking inspiration from pedestrian plazas we’ve seen in New York City and Los Angeles. It really fits the spirit of the area which is creative and vibrant.

It was Austin’s first experiment with this kind of street treatment, Martin told Streetsblog, and the response has been very positive.

  • Southeasterner

    I’m not sure I fully understand the cost argument.

    It seems like you could easily kill a few birds with one stone if instead of using paint and plastic, asphalt or concrete for neck downs you just removed the street asphalt or concrete and replaced it with dirt. This will (1) provide green street watersheds, which Austin should be adopting, (2) reduce ongoing drainage and roadway maintenance costs, (3) achieves the same, if not better, ped safety benefits as this painted/plastic solution. And since utilities and DOTs are constantly fighting for right-of-way for installation of watersheds this seems like a perfect opportunity for the two to work together to improve safety and drainage.

  • Nice!

  • Bernard Finucane

    There are hundreds of intersections in NYC alone that could be improved by this treatment.

  • Alex Brideau III

    Well, I think you can’t just remove the asphalt. You’d probably also have to install a curb or some other method to contain the exposed dirt. Then, it would be good to plant some ground cover or other flora.

    I’m guessing the costs of the above might combine with labor costs to exceed the (presumably) more reasonable cost of just slapping down a few plastic bollards and some paint.

  • AndreL

    You can’t just remove asphalt and leave it as dirt. For a starter, that would make a huge mess whenever it rains (for all users). You’d need to create a grass interface, and that is not very cheap to upkeep in a place with heavy foot traffic.

  • Southeasterner

    Very short term thinking. There are costs to replacing the plastic bollards on a regular basis and re-painting the dots every other year. The continued costs of maintaining the asphalt and drainage under those dots and bollards also need to be considered.

    I would bet if you did some rough cost benefit analysis you would find that removing the concrete and replacing it with dirt (and a curb) would be about the same if not less than painting a few dots and installing a few bollards that drivers will take out within a month.

  • Great idea. Added to our database of improvements.

  • Alex Brideau III

    No doubt the powers that be did not look at the long-term cost of this alteration. Though, to their credit, I suspect they didn’t consider the paint and plastic bollards to be a long-term solution in the first place. My guess is that they wanted to implement a quick-and-dirty treatment while they gauge how the public reacts. Too much anti-change outcry and they still have an (unfortunately) easy way out by just removing the bollards and paint.


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