"The idea is to come up with some way to surprise people on the streets of New York," Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.
The New York City Transportation Department commissioned East Village artist John Morse to create artwork for 216 signs that feature the 17-syllable poems, the New York Post reported Sunday.
Morse said his work is designed to tell people to "think about the fragility of your body."
"You're just a human. You're nothing against these cars," Morse said. "Poetry underscores the harshness of this reality. That's why it has this power."
"Cyclist writes screenplay/Plot features bike lane drama/How pedestrian," reads one of the signs about the dangers of drivers veering into bike lanes.
The $25,000 project, dubbed "Curbside Haiku," "makes you think, definitely," said Silver Matos, a construction worker.
But not all New Yorkers think the signs will be effective.
"Maybe if [the sign] was a little bigger, it'd draw more attention," said passerby Queenie Banks, 36.
"It's good, but I don't think people will notice," agreed Latasha White.
"I can think of better ways to spend $25,000 of the state's money -- it's a waste," complained City Councilman Eric Ulrich, R-Queens.
Replicas of the signs will be available for purchase online, with proceeds going to the Safe Streets Funds, a public-private partnership dedicated to traffic-safety awareness.
The city's use of verse for traffic safety isn't a first. Through much of the first half of the 20th century, the Burma Shave company posted safety messages along the nation's roadways while advertising its products. It even presaged today's designated driver campaign: "It's best for / One who hits / The bottle / To let another / Use the throttle / Burma-Shave."
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