A couple of crosswalks in Bel Air have brought some new brightness and color to the town's streets.
Visit the Bel Air Library or the Ma & Pa Trail and look down at the crosswalks on Pennsylvania Avenue and Williams Street. There you'll see bright colors and creative designs where pedestrians cross on their way to somewhere else.
The new street crossings were painted on Halloween, part of a "marriage of two separate initiatives," according to town planning director Kevin Small.
In its bicycle and pedestrian plan, the town identified several mid-block street crossings that needed to be addressed and better delineated for safety reasons, Small said.
"We needed to make sure areas where people are constantly going back and forth, and the majority of parking is on the other side of the road, to make sure those crosswalks are noticed," he said.
At the library, he said, the crosswalks weren't safe for people with strollers, elderly folks or those with disabilities, because they lacked ramps, which were installed as part of the project.
Because the town is an Arts and Entertainment District, Small and the town wanted to go with something more than the everyday sidewalks.
"Instead of ordinary striped crosswalks everyone sees, we partnered with the library to come up with something that has a little bit of public art aspect to it," Small said.
Working with Library CEO Mary Hastler and branch manager Beth Lapierre, they came up with the idea of a bookcase, "creatively going over what could be nice aspects to reflect what the purpose of the crosswalk is," Small said.
While working on the library crosswalk, town staff considered other ideas where a similar crosswalk could be installed.
"The trail was kind of an obvious selection," Small said. "There was already a crosswalk at that locale, but we thought we could do something more colorful here and help people know that this is the trailhead."
The $20,000 concrete work and painting was done Alternative Paving Concepts.
Small said the two crosswalks are part of a pilot project.
"We want to make sure what we've done is going to last and not going to be something traffic back and forth will wear down over the next couple of years," he said. "We want it to last a long time, 10 years if possible. The idea is to be able to understand if … we can do it at other places in town to promote public art."
If it does work, and if the markings are durable, he said, then the town will likely continue to do decorative crosswalks in other places.
It will take a couple years, he said, to see how the crosswalks will look with all the traffic, but he said he's encouraged by the decorative crosswalks at Lee and Main streets and Lee and Bond streets.
"They have worn quite well and they have a lot more traffic going over them than these two ever will," Small said.
Other places high on the list for decorative crosswalks are the mid-block of Thomas Street between Bond and Hays streets, where the parking lot across from the Mary Risteau building connects with the Bond/Thomas lot.
"Saturday mornings, that is where you get a lot of traffic for the farmers market," Small said.
Another consideration is a crosswalk to the parking lot across from Kroh's Cleaners on Pennsylvania Avenue.
"There is an existing crossing, but it's not handicap accessible. We want to correct that accessibility and do the same thing. It will probably just be brick, not a unique design," Small said.
The idea for that path crosswalk is part of the larger connection from the Armory to Pennsylvania Avenue, down Burns Alley and connecting eventually with whatever will be built at the old tire lot, Small said.