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Sidewalk Campaign Reminds Distracted Walkers There's 'A Whole World Out There'

Josh James
Safe Streets campaigner spray-paints a message for distracted pedestrians in downtown Lexington on June 8, 2017.

If you’re walking anywhere downtown in the coming days, you’ll probably notice the campaign’s handiwork.

Lexington’s Safe Streets campaign is taking its message to the streets – literally. The aim is to reach distracted smartphone users and others before they step foot into busy intersections.

They’re leaving simple messages, spray-painted at crosswalks and other busy spots, encouraging pedestrians absorbed in the digital realm to take a break from the screen and take in their old school 3-D surroundings. A sample: "Heads up! There's a whole world out there" and "Heads Up! What's the color of the sky today?"

David Filiatreau is a signal systems manager with traffic engineering, so he says he understands the pull of modern technology.

"Even myself at times, I'm guilty of looking down, 'Oh, I'm going to try to get something done really quickly,'" he says. "But then my eyes are off the sidewalk and my surroundings for maybe 10, 12 seconds. And then after you look up, you're thinking well, I'm glad nothing hit me because I wouldn't have seen it coming anyway."

The Safe Streets idea grew out of a pedestrian safety working group, which has also launched sidewalk improvement projects, new pedestrian signals, and marketing efforts. And Filiatreau says if the "guerilla" sidewalk messaging campaign catches on, the group will be loaning the supplies out to interested neighborhoods.

"This type of thing I think will help better than just an accusatory promo video or something like that. Maybe something fun, where you encourage just interacting with where you're at."

The project is funded in part by donations made to Kentucky's "Share the Road" specialty plate program.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.