Local grown-ups have nothing good to say about the overloaded intersection of East 33rd and R streets, a block north of Washington Elementary School, in the Rose Village neighborhood.
Cars have been known to take the intersection at 60 mph, community activist Mark Maggiora said. There’s no proper crosswalk here and the flashing “school zone” sign is in the wrong place, asserted 30-year neighbor Jim Solias — too deep into the zone and therefore too late to slow drivers down. And too many cars hang a quick turn south onto R toward the school — and find themselves heading the wrong way on a one-way street, Jubilee Lawhead said.
“I’m here all the time,” said Lawhead, who lives right on the corner. “I’ve seen way too many kids almost get killed.”
So, on Monday and Tuesday, some of those kids gave the intersection the same attention-grabbing treatment that other overbusy streetscapes have gotten in recent years. Working first with chalk to outline a complicated pattern and then with brushes and rollers, and gold, white and purple paints, they transformed the hot black asphalt into a cool floral swirl. Look closely, and you’ll see the pattern is traversed by kids holding hands and a crossing guard holding up a stop sign. At the center of the swirl is a single roller skate.
“It’s a Rose Village rose with a walking school bus,” said Maggiora. “It’s just to get people to slow down and think.” Street murals have been sprouting at worrisome intersections here and there in Vancouver, Portland and elsewhere in recent years — along with other innovative attempts at traffic-calming through measures like roadside kiosks, bookshelves and other people-friendly furniture. The idea is to remind speeding drivers that human beings are all around.
Maggiora is the leader of a homegrown nonprofit community development agency called Americans Building Community, which coordinated this street mural project with the Rose Village Neighborhood Association and the city of Vancouver. Money for paints and supplies came from a city Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance grant that also paid for some nearby street trees and new traffic islands. Labor came from, well, anyone who wanted to help out.
Like 6-year-old painting expert Trevor Thrasher, who said he’d just gotten done helping paint his family’s home on the opposite corner. Painting the street with different colors and details is tougher than painting the side of a house, he was discovering.
Inspiration came from 12-year-old Haven Rinehart and 14-year-old Emmiline Angell, who spent months developing and narrowing down numerous mural ideas with Discovery Middle School art teacher Miranda Wakeman and an after-school art club, and then presented the final three to the Rose Village Neighborhood Association — which turned to the Clark County Mural Society for a little additional feedback before giving the whole project an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
The three mural designs are destined for three separate intersections on 33rd, all of which need some serious traffic-calming, Maggiora said. In addition to the walking school bus on R, there will be a transportation-themed mural at K Street — where a streetcar used to come through and turn north — and a diversity-themed mural at Y Street.
Those will wait a few more weeks, though. Maggiora is eager to enlist tons of additional volunteers for work parties that are coming right up: sometime in September on K Street and sometime in October on Y Street. Call him at 360-992-9969 to get involved.
Meanwhile, most Tuesday-morning painters were sons and their friends brought along by neighbor Richard Rivera — who was also down on hands and knees with brushes and paint.
“I’m helping my kids help the community,” Rivera said. “I’m the dad; I’ve got to get my butt out here, too, right?”