November 1, 2019

One way to improve your city? Paint the streets

Here are three stories about renewal to inspire you as you head into the weekend.

A pedestrian crosses a painted crosswalk by Venezuelan-born artist Carlos Cruz-Diez outside the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. Brightly painted roadways are a quick way to improve city safety. Photo by Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. This week we’re featuring three project ideas that are helping cities thrive and could help yours, too. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at

A splash of color: When you think of your favorite spots in town, the streets and roads aren’t likely going to be in your top ten list. The Asphalt Arts Initiative hopes to change that. Announced just this week, the initiative is part of a collaboration between Bloomberg Associates and Street Plans Collaborative. It hopes to bring more color to cities across America.

The Initiative includes a street guide that features successful examples of roadway art projects as well as tips and suggestions for communities hoping to start their own project. The initiative will also feature a competition for small and mid-sized cities. These towns and cities can apply to receive up to $25,000 to implement their own roadside and asphalt arts project by the end of 2020.

“These projects are more than eye candy. They can deliver significant safety benefits for pennies on the dollar,” Janette Sadik-Khan, Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner said at the City Lab DC Conference. “Blacktop can become a backdrop for new public spaces.”

Green living: We know that green space can improve the health of a community, and now a study in Louisville, Kentucky, is trying to determine if they can improve the health of individuals. The study, called the Green Heart Louisville, is assessing how health is impacted by tree canopy, the percentage of a city shaded by trees. According to the Green Heart project, the canopy in some Louisville neighborhoods only accounts for 6 to 11 percent of the land.

The study began in 2018 and will run for five years. To start, researchers took baseline health data from 800 residents, then over the next three years, trees and vegetation will be planted in their neighborhoods. In 2022, the project will assess the health of the 800 study participants.

“If we can provide some evidence that there is an important effect of greenness on human health, in particular, the risk of heart disease, then that will send a case in trying to preserve the tree canopy,” said Aruni Bhatnagar, lead researcher for the study and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Obesity Research at the University of Louisville, told NationSwell.

A smart reason to volunteer: First responder is one of the most important jobs in any community. The Pennsylvania legislature is considering a bill that would help towns and cities across the state by providing an extra incentive for people to become volunteers with fire departments and emergency medical services agencies—student loan forgiveness. The measure was first introduced in August 2019 and would grant up to $16,000 in loan forgiveness to those volunteers.

Having enough first responders is, understandably, an important issue. “It’s a problem that threatens to undermine public safety, and surely one that will impact taxpayers if we don’t come up with viable solutions now,” State Rep. Chris Sainato told Route Fifty.

The Renewal Project

The Renewal Project, made possible by Allstate, tells the stories of individuals and organizations who are solving problems in their communities.
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