[Tom Biederbeck] Cars, trucks, emergency vehicles … pedestrians, buses and bicycles … all in a hurry, all claiming a piece of the road. Crowded streets and urgent motion make for a hazardous urban environment, especially for bicyclists, who have to share the right of way with the behemoths. In Chicago, a group of committed creative artists, collaborating through Moving Design, have created Our Road, a campaign that uses posters, public events and streetscape graphics to promote safe cycling.
“Cause Effect,” poster by Nick Adam and Bud Rodecker. Large posters were screen printed on a variety of Mohawk papers by Chicago’s Delicious Design League.
Moving Design, which conceived and produced Our Road, is a coalition that works with community partners to inspire change through the power of design. Founded by Rick Valicenti and John Pobojewski of the Chicago firm 3st, Moving Design organizes volunteers — from students, to freelancers, to senior creatives from some of the city’s top studios and agencies — in summer workshops that address “specific social issues versus specific client needs,” as Pobojewski puts it.
Moving Design was created out of an ambition to “discover a new way of practicing design,” he says. “Every year we make a call to designers to gather around a certain issue and help create initiatives — art, design and otherwise — to catalyze change, promote new ideas and encourage new enlightenment.” For the summer of 2011, that issue was bicycling safety.
In addition to designers and artists, the 40-plus volunteers who contributed to Our Road included engineers, city planners and architects. Their goal: an ambitious public presence for bicyclists and drivers of the vehicles they ride alongside, culminating in an Aug. 28 event in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood to cap the campaign.
Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood was the focus for a couple of reasons. First, it’s full of creative types and biking enthusiasts, guaranteeing a receptive audience. Second, Moving Design’s public partner in this case was the Active Transportation Alliance, which bills itself as “Chicagoland’s voice for better biking, walking and transit.” Pobojewski says the alliance was aware that the alderman representing Logan Square, Rey Colón, is a cycling advocate and actually looking for programs for his neighborhood to encourage more residents to bicycle.
On Aug. 28, in the heart of Logan Square, Comfort Station gallery hosted a public exhibition of all the components of the campaign (the exhibition will remain open to the public through Sept. 28). Customized bicycles in the gallery served as distribution points to get communication materials out into the neighborhood, Pobojewski notes. “For example, we had one bicycle covered with blinking LED lights for kids to put on their own bikes,” he says. Giveaways included T-shirts, a children’s book on bike safety and spoke cards with safe biking tips.
Left: Posters will be on exhibit at at the gallery through the end of September, then auctioned to support future Moving Design initiatives. Right: “Guerrilla” flyers were produced for posting on the streets of the neighborhood.
Throughout the Logan Square area, Our Road volunteers had installed streetscape graphics and posted small guerilla flyers to capture the attention of drivers, walkers and bikers. There was even a Pothole Brigade that canvassed the neighborhood, calling attention to potholes with water soluble chalk paint; their “finds” were documented on a website, Spothol.es. (Plaster casts of potholes are also on display at the gallery, presumably for biking masochists.)
Watch the video for a time-lapse capture of volunteers creating streetscape graphics:
Moving Design hopes the Our Road project will serve as a model for other neighborhoods intent on improving the quality of life, public safety and health, and community cohesion across the city. Throughout the month of September, Our Road is holding a raffle for a $1500 Biomega Copenhagen CPH bicycle; tickets are $10 and can be purchased online. Drawing is Sept. 28.
Top image credits: Posters by Chris Mitchell, “Our Road” (left), and Ben Deter, “My Crank Is My Engine”