New, 3D, Zebra Crossing Levitates Above the Road

How levitating, optical illusion, road crossing works, its key benefit and other unusual methods to control traffic

What motorists see

A new, levitating, three dimensional zebra crossing has been installed to improve road safety in Ísafjörður, Iceland. As motorists approach they see white, rectangular, blocks reminiscent of a traditional crossing obstructing the road. In theory, this encourages them to slow down which reduces the risk to pedestrians.

As pedestrians walk over the white, rectangular, blocks they too levitate from the perspective of motorists. A film shows a gentleman leap with glee over the blocks, young children on foot scooters defy gravity and a couple walk across the road in mid air.

In reality, however, the crossing is flat so there are no levitating hazards. The optical illusion has been created by white, light grey, and dark grey rectangles painted on the tarmac at precise angles. Whereas this is not obvious to motorists, it is if viewed from different perspectives. Low and adjacent, for instance.

The film further confirms that the perceived height of the white, rectangular, blocks varies according to the viewing angle. They look the thickness of paving slabs when approaching by car, for example. However, far above street level they look a few feet tall.


New Delhi crossing

Iceland’s three dimensional, levitating, zebra crossing has been inspired by a counterpart in New Delhi, India. And it seems this yellow and black alternative has its benefits. A traffic officer explained it has become “a sight of amusement for commuters”, caused “excitement” among pedestrians, and that traffic has slowed.

The officer confirmed: “If you are driving, from a distance the crossing looks like the road has been dug up or is elevated. This automatically makes the driver slow down. During the day you will see pedestrians hopping through the painted blocks”, he concluded.

Further unconventional traffic schemes

Authorities and concerned citizens throughout the world have taken further, unconventional, steps to slow traffic. Highlights include:

  • A mother in Berkshire, United Kingdom, created a pretend safety camera from a sheet of wood, the lid from a can of deodorant and yellow paint then installed it close to the A338
  • Authorities in Vancouver, Canada, painted a child chasing a ball - that looks lifelike and three dimensional - on the road
  • Transport for London, United Kingdom, painted fake, optical illusion, speed bumps at various sites throughout the capital
  • Iver District Council, United Kingdom, fitted bollards that resemble children nicknamed Bill and Belinda close to schools

These initiatives pose a question: what imaginative, insightful, and clever techniques would you use to slow down speeding drivers?