Livable Streets Initiative

In New York City, approximately 4,000 New York pedestrians are seriously injured and more than 230 are killed each year in traffic crashes. Because every New Yorker deserves to feel safe on our city streets, Groundswell and the Department of Transportation have collaborated since 2008 to use art as a tool to start conversations around safer streets and inspire better decisions for the entire community. 


Through the artmaking process, youth become ambassadors for livable streets and traffic safety. Groundswell and the NYC DOT have an ongoing program geared toward bringing safer streets education to public schools: the Traffic Safety Banner Residency. Past programs include the Traffic Safety Sign Education Program, and multiple mural collaborations.

Traffic Safety Banner Residency


A team of young people point at a street light banner on the topic of livable streets.

This banner was created with Washington Heights BID and JHS 143 students.

The Traffic Safety Banner Residency, sponsored by NYC DOT Safety Education in collaboration with Groundswell, engages New York City youths, in grades 5th to 8th, in exploring the traffic safety environment in the area around their schools. Through discussion of traffic safety issues and neighborhood observation, students work together to identify problems and provide solutions by creating unique banners for the traffic environment that speak to local issues. The project is facilitated at each school by a DOT Safety Educator and a Groundswell teaching artist. The banners, designed collaboratively by students, are produced by a Sign Shop, and then are installed along streets near the schools by neighborhood Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). The ten colorful banners along each street will raise traffic safety awareness and help prevent crashes and reduce injuries around their school community.


Traffic Safety Sign Education Program


A team of elementary students stand in front of a traffic sign they designed.

This safety sign was created with IS 71 students.

Through a unique arts curriculum designed in partnership with the NYC DOT and its Office of Education and Outreach, Groundswell engages public school students in the creation of original traffic safety signs for their communities. These young people explore traffic conditions on streets adjacent to their school and then create a personalized safety message for pedestrians. A selection of signs designed collaboratively by the students are fabricated by the DOT sign shop and temporarily installed in local locations identified by the students around the school.


Mural Collaborations


Groundswell and the NYC DOT have collaborated on many murals throughout our decade-long partnership. These projects give youth like Malikah Mahone the opportunity to become advocates for livable streets. Malikah helped create the 2015 mural, “The Crossroads / La Encrucijada” in collaboration with Groundswell and the NYC DOT. The 2,000 sq ft mural, located on a Food Bazaar Supermarket in the South Bronx, reminds New Yorkers that their choices matter when it comes to reducing Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) crashes. About her experience, Malikah said, “Using the knowledge that I have gained during the summer, I am able to create a dialogue with my peers and others about the efforts to stop DWI-related crashes across the city.” 

Projects in this Series

  • Project

    Heads up! Phones Down!

    The traffic safety banner residency program, sponsored by NYC DOT Safety Education in collaborati...

  • Project

    I Never Thought It Could Happen to Me

    The goal of the project was to create two posters that were directed towards high school students...

  • Project

    Be Present

    The traffic safety banner residency program, sponsored by NYC DOT Safety Education in collaborati...