Opinion | Painted crosswalks hide pedestrians on campus

Iowa City is known in the state for beautiful murals on buildings and roads. However, more thought about public safety should be put into design before these pieces of art are finalized.


Lillie Hawker

The painting of a tiger hawk on Jefferson Street is seen in Iowa City on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

Yasmina Sahir, Opinions Columnist

As University of Iowa students, you don’t have to be on campus long before hearing the classic joke about being run over by a Cambus and receiving free tuition in return. 

But with new art additions to campus crosswalks on T. Anne Cleary Walkway, this humorous introduction to campus culture might become a reality for some students.  

The UI campus is picturesque for many reasons. One of these being the community artworks found in several locations around downtown Iowa City

When the semester started in August, a new golden Hawkeye emblem was painted along the T. Anne Cleary Walkway. The crosswalk murals were painted before the start of the academic year on both Market Street by the Chemistry Building and on Jefferson Street by the MacBride Hall bus stop. 

But there is one problem with these new additions to campus. At night, the black backgrounds make pedestrians invisible to oncoming traffic. 

Lack of lighting, one-way confusion, and blind spots caused by hills are already factors in accident prone areas of campus like the Cleary Walkway intersections.

In May 2021, it was reported that over 100 Iowa pedestrians had been involved in motor vehicle accidents so far in that year. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of Iowans killed by motor vehicles rose by 25 percent. 

How do these murals pose a threat to pedestrians? Grounded in scientific research, the human brain interprets colors from various reflections of infrared light. Each color has a different wavelength, creating the appearance of reds, blues, yellows, greens, and so on. 

The color black is caused by a lack of reflection. Black absorbs both heat and light, creating what could be considered gaps in processing of the world around us. 

The murals wouldn’t be as large of a problem if the UI tried to increase the amount of lighting on campus sidewalks. 

Currently, the T. Anne Cleary Walkway has plenty of streetlights but none are aimed on the crosswalks directly.

Of course, the university can only be responsible for student safety on campus if students themselves choose to be aware of their surroundings when walking.

Student culture in 2022 often includes walking while using a phone, noise canceling headphones, and the expectation that cars respect student space first. Anyone walking around downtown must remain aware of their surroundings and be mindful that not all drivers in Iowa City are used to navigating intersections in a college town.

Under Iowa law, pedestrians are given the right of way at most unmarked and marked crosswalks. Because of this, the responsibility of keeping people safe is split between students and those behind the wheel. 

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.