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Desperate for safety, Portlanders flock to artist’s slow down signs

Posted by on April 9th, 2021 at 2:41 pm

Snail, sloth and turtle want you to slow down.
(Mike Bennett Art)

A north Portland artist has tapped into the wild popularity of safe streets with a series of whimsical “slow down signs”.

Mike Bennett is a visual artist who spent his pandemic year creating a zoo full of characters and placing cut-outs of them in his front yard in the Mississippi neighborhood. He’s also behind the “Planetary Promenade” installations you can find up and down Mississippi Avenue.

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Now he’s turned some of his beloved characters into safe streets ambassadors.

After teasing images of the signs on his Instagram page last week, Bennett gave away 75 slow down sign cutouts for free to an enthusiastic crowd in northeast Portland today.

If you missed the giveaway, the yard signs are available for just $30 a piece at ShirtNerdery.com.

Portland is full of people who want safer streets. When the City of Portland offered “20 is Plenty” yard signs as part of a Vision Zero campaign in 2018, they had trouble keeping up with demand. Now they have a website where folks can request them.

In 2020, PBOT says they handed out 629 signs citywide.

Bennett might be onto something here. With an increase in speeding since pandemic lockdowns began last year and a lack of speeding enforcement, designer yard signs might become the hot summer must-have.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Vernon Martin
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Vernon Martin

I like the art. Unfortunately, since there is essentially no traffic enforcement in Portland the signs will be ineffective. The Portland city council is out of touch with the silent majority who want enforcement of our traffic laws.

X
Guest
X

If people who sometimes ride bikes, have children, or claim to respect The Law operate their motor vehicles at the speed limit, stop behind the crosswalk, and brake for a changing light (as opposed to accelerating) there’s your traffic enforcement right there.

It’s a completely unbiased way of making streets safe.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

If I had any semblance of self control, I’d weigh 20 pounds less. Problem is, sometimes we need external influences to keep us diligent and honest.

Heck, if everyone obeyed the laws, there’d be no need for any kind of law enforcement.

Madison
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Madison

This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. We’ve been reduced to cartoons for road safety?

X
Guest
X

The use of cartoon style suggests the presence of children in a neighborhood. Of course, any neighborhood could have children–kids live on NE Prescott and that doesn’t keep people from doing 40 mph in a 25 zone.

JR
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JR

I’m not sure what’s so sad about it. Traffic safety requires us to challenge our norms, both physical and emotional reactions. I’ve seen jugglers, mimes, clowns, and more to capture driver’s interests and slow them down or follow traffic laws. Nothing unusual about throwing some clever and cute creatures into the mix before sending in the clowns.

DCSeymour
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DCSeymour

At what point do community groups start participating in radical urbanism to actually force these changes? You can put up all the signs you want, unless the infrastructure changes, these problems will continue.

Middle of the Road Guy
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Middle of the Road Guy

Or enforcement with existing infra.

Tom
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Tom

Weird to see an advertisement right on the front page of BikePortland… was this a sponsored post?

Mick O
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Mick O

Yes, he paid BP 15% of the take for giving away free signs.

Rivelo
Guest

I like Mike Bennett’s Art. I suspect these may provoke the very drivers we hope to persuade. Especially the ones driving giant pickup trucks with Washington plates.

An interesting sign I saw the other day: Humor or feud?

https://www.instagram.com/p/CNjAqJRF3nC/?igshid=r9bkbbj7n7v6

Bikeninja
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Bikeninja

I like the art, but with no traffic enforcement I believe my prediction from a year ago that people and neighborhoods would begin to take things in to their own hands and control traffic themselves with home built infrastructure, and eventually citizen manned control points will come true . We have already seen pilot projects for such things with home made barriers before covid, and the experiments with streets closures on Albina street last fall. As I predicted these things will will pick up steam as they give citizens a measure of control and safety in a time of uncertainty.

Mister_M
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Mister_M

The “It’s time to slow down Portland” yard signs are more prolific. Though, these only appeal to citizen’s sense of duty and perhaps shame. My therapist tells me that inducing behavioral change through shame is a weak method at best. So, how effective are these really? If this is the best we can do, then we’re doomed.