Artwork Program Transforms NYC Bike Lanes

Written By Kristina Kennedy-Aguero | March 13, 2020 | Published in Urban Design, Neighborhood News
2020%2f02%2f28%2f20%2f10%2f31%2fb321d20f 75d7 467b b699 01ab4d63e48f%2f mg 0198 edit hi

Throughout NYC, concrete barriers protecting the increasing number of bike lanes are now becoming more than a safety element but also a cultural statement. NYC’s Department of Transportation (DOT) launched the Barrier Beautification Program (BBP) 12 years ago and since then it has been allowing local artists to express themselves on land under their control. Already murals and paintings have been permitted on sidewalks, streets, fences, underpasses, medians, public plazas, and other blank “canvases” within their jurisdiction, and works include abstracts, portraits, pixelated fruits, cats, and bold patterns. There are now more than 300 temporary artworks around the city, thanks to DOT Art, who partners both with professional artists and with non-profit community-based organizations, and grants are available for some projects.

Last year saw the highest level of biking fatalities in New York since the year 2000. This has motivated an increase in the construction of concrete barriers to protect cyclists in the bike lanes, and so now, there are many more surfaces to transform. The Green Wave bike safety plan wants 30 miles of new protection along bike lanes to be installed each year, and that means that many more artists are being invited to participate in the beautification project. The director of DOT Art, Emily Colasacco, stated that the program is “about enhancing quality of life and creating inviting and welcoming streets” and NYC is one of only a few cities nationwide where the DOT has a dedicated arts program. Since the project started in 2010, a total of 41 interventions have transformed almost six miles of barriers into works of art. Artists can submit their proposals to the DOT for transforming a stretch of barrier from 200 to 2000 feet long. During the review process, works are selected for their colorful, simple, bold patterns.

Janette Sadik-Khan, the DOT commissioner, explained “It’s not just about art—it’s about creating safe spaces for people for pennies on the dollar. This (Asphalt Art) is fast, easy, inexpensive, and transformative.” It is an effective method of traffic-calming, as drivers slow down to focus better on the artwork. However, the murals not only look nice, but they also make a statement of possession and domination. As cities try to move away from their car-oriented past, these types of artworks help pedestrians and cyclists to re-establish their domain and rights on the streets.

One of the artists involved in the project, Ann Tarantino, has noticed how patterns in the landscape have the potential to indicate exclusion or inclusion. She states, “I’ve been looking at patterns in landscape and how it defines space, or power, or belonging—like [the patterns of] traffic cones, flags, and stop signs. Designating and carving out space for a particular type of movement validates biking as a way to get around.” 

Blog Archive


This information is not verified for authenticity or accuracy and is not guaranteed and may not reflect all real estate activity in the market. © 2021 REBNY Listing Service, Inc. All rights reserved. RLS IDX Data display by Elegran LLC. IDX information is provided exclusively for consumers’ personal, non- commercial use and that it may not be used for any purpose other than to identify prospective properties consumers may be interested in purchasing.

Elegran LLC may or may not be the exclusive listing agent of the properties being displayed on All data displayed on is presented for informational purposes only and should be independently confirmed by all customers. All Information is compiled from both public and private sources including, but not limited to the RLS, MLS and ACRIS; each of which is assumed to be reliable. All information displayed is subject to errors and omissions regarding apartment specifications and final sale prices, and further, any unit listed may have had its listing withdrawn without notice subsequent to such information being compiled. No representation is made as to the accuracy of any description (ie: listing, close sale data, and/or building description) of any building or individual unit. All measurements and square footage are approximate and all information herein should be confirmed by customer and/or their attorney. Elegran LLC, its members, affiliates, and contributors adhere to New Your City, New York State, and United States Fair Housing Laws.