The Stencil Project

Alice Wang was killed on February 7th 1997, crossing Canal Street by a hit-and-run driver. Harris Silver, founder of Citystreets didn’t know Alice Wang, but her plight and many others like her is something he never took for granted, knowing it could easily have been him or someone he knows that was struck, crossing Canal Street, or any other dangerous intersection in NYC.

Already curious about street safety, as the streets didn’t feel safer despite the falling crime rate Citystreets founder, Silver, wrote to NYPD about her death to find out if her death would be part of the city’s crime stats. The  NYPD response, let us know that the driver was not caught and that her death would not be included in the city’s crime stats.

There was a need to raise awareness to pedestrian safety issues and Silver conceived of a project to put pedestrian safety on the city’s radar. The idea was simple and powerful–to use the sidewalks as media space and paint a full size human outline at the site of a fatal pedestrian vehicle collision with their name the date of the crash and the words “Killed by Automobile” This project received a lot of media attention.

Tom Delmondo, an advertising Art Director at DDB  who Silver worked with made the image for the stencil, which everyone began to call Flatso. Some of Silver’s early collaborators were cyclists  and  there was a falling out as they did not want to frame the project as a “pedestrian safety project”, at the suggestion of another DDB alumni Sharoz Makarechi.

Citystreets was founded and some  former volunteers founded another group called Right of Way. They produced a small booklet that brought the dangers of Queens Boulevard to the public, which was also picked up by the media.

Overhearing a conversation one day shortly after we started stenciling, at the table next to us in a coffee shop, where people were talking about seeing the stencils on the street and the project as a whole. That was the moment we knew that we were seeping into culture.

To date hundreds of stencils have been put down in New York and other cities around the world by people who share our desire to make cities safer for the people who live, work and visit them.

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  • Driver can not see kids standing in front of car.
    Driver can not see kids standing in front of car.
  • No accommodation for pedestrian during sidewalk construction
    No accommodation for pedestrian during sidewalk construction
  • Improperly placed and maintained signs sends the wrong message to drivers.
    Improperly placed and maintained signs sends the wrong message to drivers.