New York City to promote traffic and pedestrian safety—through haiku

posted at 8:05 am on November 30, 2011 by Howard Portnoy

Under the stewardship of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York City has been second to none in adopting misguided, feel-good, ‘70s-ish initiatives that accomplish nothing beyond wasting taxpayer dollars. In fact, Bloomie has appropriated some of his loonier ideas from other left-leaning parts of the country.

In January of 2010, following California’s example, he launched a campaign to reduce salt consumption citywide by 25% over five years’ time. In September of that year, a time when the city was faced with a $4.5 billion-and-growing deficit, he spent $25 million to install bike lanes that have since added immeasurably to the city’s traffic congestion and increased the risk of injury for pedestrians.

Now the mayor is at it again. On Tuesday, his transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, announced that New York would be investing in a consciousness-raising traffic safety campaign that draws on the work of Atlanta artist John Morse. And how will the artist reach out to“distracted pedestrians, cyclists and drivers”? Why through haiku, of course. Poems that follow the 5-syllable, 7-syllable, 5-syllable Japanese verse form will appear on 8-inch square signs that also feature “eye-catching graphics.”

There will be 200 signs in all, posted at high-crash locations near cultural institutions and schools. Here are some examples of the haiku New Yorkers can expect to see in the coming months:

Too averse to risk
To chance the lottery, yet
Steps into traffic.
A sudden car door
Cyclist’s story rewritten.
Fractured narrative

The concept behind the project, which is called Curbside Haiku, was borrowed from Atlanta. That city commissioned Morse in 2010 to design 500 signs for its Roadside Haiku.

It is too early to gauge the success of Curbside Haiku (which in Morse’s view includes surprising motorists with “a commentary on the urban conditition”), but in light of Americans’ general love of poetry, I would be surprised if it weren’t a smash.

I don’t profess to be a poet, but I would like to close with a haiku of my own, dedicated to Mayor Bloomberg.

How much can one burg,
Strapped for cash, waste on trifles
Before it goes broke.

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Comments

Yet one more reason never to visit or live in NYC.

Badger40 on November 30, 2011 at 8:09 AM

NYC used to be a fun place to visit before Bloomberg destroyed it.

gophergirl on November 30, 2011 at 8:14 AM

When was the Lady’s Saturday Afternoon Reading Club put in charge of traffic policy?

roy_batty on November 30, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Look before you cross
I just saved the taxpayers
the cost of two lines

Jorge Bonilla on November 30, 2011 at 8:18 AM

Criminal with gun

Innocent without

Wealth and lives redistributed

Chip on November 30, 2011 at 8:19 AM

Bloomy strikes again
how much will this haiku cost?
Nanny state unhinged

Jorge Bonilla on November 30, 2011 at 8:19 AM

my County of Kings
Like the rest of my hometown
leftist dystopia

Jorge Bonilla on November 30, 2011 at 8:21 AM

In a crowded elevator
Consider the plight
Apply it to a midget

pilamaye on November 30, 2011 at 8:22 AM

business static
the government grows unchecked
traffic light changes

2L8 on November 30, 2011 at 8:23 AM

lovely street signage
which to most shall stay unseen
while snowplows idle

Jorge Bonilla on November 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM

NYC has people who can’t read or speak English yet this. The urge to spend other people’s money on stuff they don’t really need must be very strong.

Kissmygrits on November 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM

I live in Atlanta and I’d never heard of this. So checking on the net, I found out why:

http://projectqatlanta.com/news_articles/view/gay_artist_turns_bandit_signs_into_roadside_haiku?gid=6191

So now I’m pretty sure I have seen these, but I read the first line “Lose weight fast” and didn’t bother reading the rest because I assumed it was for some fad diet or weight loss pills. I wonder how many other Atlantans are like me; if it’s a sizeable number Mr. Morse’s installation is a dud because nobody even bothers to take in the message.

By the way, the idea that this town needs such reminders about being anti-homophobic is silly. A gay magazine recently named Atlanta the best city in the USA for gays, and arguably the most famous homosexual on earth–Elton John–loves this town so much he bought a place here where he lives much of the year with his partner.

radjah shelduck on November 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Will you ponder me
As you walk across the street?
Look out! You are dead.

kagai on November 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM

“Bunch of assholian morons running America
Douchebags in control
I’m adding extra sandbags to the bunker and buying bullets”

I’m a bit off on the syllable count.

Bishop on November 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM

Salt of the earth

Transfat of the fries

Bloomie not abides

Chip on November 30, 2011 at 8:26 AM

Euro in riot
Iran in the Bomb
Food, ammo in stock

Chip on November 30, 2011 at 8:28 AM

Try to ignore it
It’s dirty and smells badly
New York’s like a fart.

radjah shelduck on November 30, 2011 at 8:29 AM

Yet one more reason never to visit or live in NYC.

Badger40 on November 30, 2011 at 8:09 AM

It’s a dirty, uncivilized place I hear.

You’ll of course recognize the haiku in the cover pic as the famous verse penned by Matsuo Basho during his visit to Ryoshoku-ji temple on July 13, 1689 ;)

DarkCurrent on November 30, 2011 at 8:31 AM

FIFY:

America sinks
assholians in control
sandbags and bunkers

2L8 on November 30, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Pooping on cop cars
Can I borrow a needle
Occupiers rule

Bishop on November 30, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Ot: dear leader says ‘english embassy’ and crickets chirp

Perry makes a gaffe, 24/7 coverage

cmsinaz on November 30, 2011 at 8:33 AM

Here’s mine:

Rip up the bike lanes
Remove Bloomberg from office
Take back N Y C

Urban Infidel on November 30, 2011 at 8:34 AM

Excellent, this is why I love hot air!

cmsinaz on November 30, 2011 at 8:34 AM

An new silent sign…
A man reads into the street,
Squash! Silence again.

Apologies to Basho.

Fallon on November 30, 2011 at 8:36 AM

One more time without the extra letter:

A new silent sign…
A man reads into the street,
Squash! Silence again.

Apologies to HA and Basho.

Fallon on November 30, 2011 at 8:37 AM

BURMA SHAVE!

FOWG1 on November 30, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Occupiers squat for socialism

Democratic agenda unhinged

National media whitewash

Chip on November 30, 2011 at 8:42 AM

Do not think of fast and furious
Nor of the solyndra green sun power
You have cute signs to adore

tinkerthinker on November 30, 2011 at 8:42 AM

I’m a bit off on the syllable count.

Bishop on November 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM

No problem. I just took it to be “free-style” Haiku.

oldleprechaun on November 30, 2011 at 8:45 AM

BURMA SHAVE!

FOWG1 on November 30, 2011 at 8:41 AM

Historical popculture exemplified

Knowing reference acknowledged

Youngsters perplexed

Chip on November 30, 2011 at 8:48 AM

So they’re adding a garish, eye-catching distraction to intersections already prone to car accidents?

LOL. Oh wow.

Lehosh on November 30, 2011 at 8:51 AM

Taxpayers run down
Victims pile up in E.R.
Mike says bikes are ‘green’

Urban Infidel on November 30, 2011 at 8:55 AM

What does that thing say
Distracted by stone tablet
Human bug crushed flat

Bishop on November 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM

What does that thing say
Distracted by stone tablet
Human bug crushed flat

Bishop on November 30, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Heh!

DarkCurrent on November 30, 2011 at 9:11 AM

Not much to add here
Bloomberg is a freaking nut
Liberalism!

BierManVA on November 30, 2011 at 9:13 AM

“Bunch of assholian morons running America
Douchebags in control
I’m adding extra sandbags to the bunker and buying bullets”

I’m a bit off on the syllable count.

Bishop on November 30, 2011 at 8:25 AM

You didn’t adhere to the 5-7-5 rule of haiku -

douchebags in control
mob of @ssholes rule US all
address bunker gaps

roy_batty on November 30, 2011 at 9:24 AM

Would have been cooler
Had you followed haiku rules
Writing the Headline

JohnGalt23 on November 30, 2011 at 9:26 AM

When to test a pol

For evidence of a brain

Just pull his finger

Yoop on November 30, 2011 at 9:28 AM

First five syllables
Then seven, then five again
Haikus are stupid

ynot4tony2 on November 30, 2011 at 9:39 AM

Wall Street was a bust
What’s a protestor to do?
Occupy haiku

Trafalgar on November 30, 2011 at 9:43 AM

Looked to read haiku
I did not see light turn red
Under bus I lie.

Steve Z on November 30, 2011 at 9:44 AM

Would have been cooler
Had you followed haiku rules
Writing the Headline

JohnGalt23 on November 30, 2011 at 9:26 AM

New York not so safe
When you walk or drive or bike
Bloomberg to fix all

Trafalgar on November 30, 2011 at 9:50 AM

You didn’t adhere to the 5-7-5 rule of haiku -
roy_batty on November 30, 2011 at 9:24 AM

They’s no rules re:English Haiku.

bloomberg:
silly, useless man
full of himself

people:
eyes roll,
mouths laugh

whatcat on November 30, 2011 at 9:59 AM

Dawn of a new age

Spoiled appetite trumps honor

Film at eleven?

Freelancer on November 30, 2011 at 9:59 AM

ATL native here, first and only one of these I’ve ever seen-at the site of a fender bender. Honest to blog, I’d have never noticed it, if it wasn’t directly in front of me while waiting for the cops to come see if I witnessed the accident. I can’t say that it made the accident happen, but I can’t see any other reason they just happened to wreck there.

di butler on November 30, 2011 at 10:00 AM

My Yoda Haiku Wisdom:

Fast the cars do come
Quickly you must make the cross
Dead you are if not

Alden Pyle on November 30, 2011 at 10:47 AM

Sigh! Ed Koch had it right when he came up with his “Don’t even think of parking here!” signs placed all around mid-Manhattan.

Shy Guy on November 30, 2011 at 11:16 AM

By the way, the idea that this town needs such reminders about being anti-homophobic is silly. A gay magazine recently named Atlanta the best city in the USA for gays, and arguably the most famous homosexual on earth–Elton John–loves this town so much he bought a place here where he lives much of the year with his partner.

radjah shelduck on November 30, 2011 at 8:24 AM

That’s not really important. The real vital thing to remember is that the world makes much more sense to some people when they feel persecuted. If most of the rest of society aren’t slope-browed bigots bent on holding down others or hating them what do they have against which to rail? To whom will they feel superior?

RDuke on November 30, 2011 at 11:51 AM

That’s not really important. The real vital thing to remember is that the world makes much more sense to some people when they feel persecuted. If most of the rest of society aren’t slope-browed bigots bent on holding down others or hating them what do they have against which to rail? To whom will they feel superior?

RDuke on November 30, 2011 at 11:51 AM

I agree with you. I am gay and support gay marriage, yet I find gay rights activists annoying. There will come a point in the next decade when right-wing gays are going to have to start attacking the “gay rights” movement. The movement will linger past its getting its legitimate demands met like the NAACP.

thuja on November 30, 2011 at 12:28 PM

Bloomberg is a tool.
Taxee’s money grows on trees.
Bring back Rudy, please.

DrAllecon on November 30, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Personally, I’da gone the Burma Shave route.

REF: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burma-Shave

Sailfish on November 30, 2011 at 1:46 PM