Artists of all abilities are invited to help paint a public mural on the West Side this month as part of an initiative to raise awareness of road safety on one of San Antonio’s deadliest thoroughfares.
The City’s Vision Zero initiative commissioned local artist Crystal Tamez to design and oversee painting of the mural at San Antonio Fire Department Station #26 at 4140 Culebra Rd.
On Tuesday morning, Tamez and her team were finishing most of the base layer of background colors, and she had started painting a Día de los Muertos altar in the mural’s upper right corner.
The 25-foot tall by 80-foot wide mural will depict people using various modes of transportation: a woman crosses the street with groceries as a man driving a convertible looks at his phone, a parent pushes a stroller down the sidewalk, and a man walks his dog past a bike painted white to memorialize a bicycling fatality. The mural also features a map depicting where other deaths have occurred on Culebra Road.
“We have what you shouldn’t do and what you should do” depicted in the mural, said Tamez, emphasizing that the man shown looking at his phone illustrates distractions that should be avoided while behind the wheel.
From 2011-2015, 12 fatal pedestrian injuries have occurred on the 7-mile stretch of Culebra between Interstate Loop 410 and Interstate 10. More than 150 deaths occur on San Antonio streets every year, according to the City. Those are drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
The mural aims to honor the victims and highlight “the everyday pace” of Culebra for passing motorists and the larger community, Tamez said. The work includes such prominent Westside destinations as an H-E-B grocery store, Fred’s Fish Fry, and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower.
The City’s Transportation & Capital Improvement Department developed the mural in partnership with San Anto Cultural Arts, where Tamez has led several community murals, and hosted a series of public meetings to collect community input.
“All our murals bring some type of awareness to the community, so I was super happy for this one,” Tamez said. “I used to live up the street, so I know how dangerous it is.”
Anyone can help paint the mural during October on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The final product will be unveiled Nov. 15 as part of the City’s participation in the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims.
Tamez and her assistants will help guide volunteers on what to paint where, she said.
“Ninety percent of people who come out don’t know how to paint,” she said, but experienced painters are also welcome.
The mural represents the fourth annual effort by Vision Zero, an initiative spearheaded by Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (D5) in 2015, to mark the global observance of motor vehicle fatalities.
Vision Zero San Antonio’s goal is to prevent all roadway deaths and serious injuries. Fatal pedestrian crashes spiked to 65 in 2016 but decreased to 44 in 2017, according to a Vision Zero San Antonio report. There were 49 pedestrian deaths in 2018.
“This mural reminds people … it’s not just a thoroughfare. People do live here – it’s a community,” said Gregory Reininger with Vision Zero San Antonio. The mural is funded with $24,206 from the City initiative’s budget.
Having the fire department participate made sense because it’s often these first responders that are called to the scene of crashes, Reininger said.
The City and Texas Department of Transportation have installed seven pedestrian crossings on the busy street, he said. However, there are still long stretches of four- to six-lane traffic that pedestrians attempt to cross in areas without crosswalks.
TCI is working on five new pedestrian crossings on Culebra at Navidad, Hamilton, Northwest 28th, Mira Vista, and Goodrich streets as well as a new signal on Northwest 18th Street and median improvements on Northwest 26th street.
One person has died so far this year on Culebra Road, Reninger said. “One is still one too many,” he said.