Over the last couple of weeks I started repainting the damaged stripes on the DNA cycle path between Addenbrooke’s and Great Shelford.
A member of the public was concerned that my paint was too bright – so I’m considering what I should do next – hence the following deliberations. Your thoughts would be appreciated (here or on Twitter).
The stripes were installed in 2006, to commemorate the 10000th mile of Sustrans cycle path in the UK – and the stripes represent the 10257 bases in the human gene BRCA2. Now that it’s ten years old, it’s showing considerable wear in places, so I wanted to touch it up.
Here’s a what the path looked like back in 2007 (courtesy of Wikipedia/Keith Edkins, CC BY-SA 2.0):
Here are some of the parts I’ve repainted:
(Third photograph in dim light so may have overemphasised the brightness of that red!)
I had critical feedback from a user of the path (while I was applying masking tape to do some more painting): while he agreed that the stripes needed repairing, he objected to the brightness of the new paint I’d applied. We discussed his concerns and he said he’d be satisfied if Sustrans gave the OK. I contacted Sustrans, asking whether it was OK to continue using the colours I had, and they said it was.
However, I want to make sure I’m not annoying anyone by doing this, so I’ve got some more things I’d like to consider before continuing.
I’m hoping my new paint will fade/wear over time to blend in better with the existing paint. I’ve suggested (and several have agreed) that it might be worth stopping for now, and waiting a few months to see whether this happens.
Road-marking paint is (usually) only available in a small set of colours – yellow is common, red and blue less so, green difficult to find. The exact shade varies between brands, though, so there is a little bit of choice when trying to match a shade. The green I’m using looks like a good match to me. I’ve used two brands of blue, and the first one (middle picture above) looks like a good enough match whereas the second one (third picture above) is rather darker. If I stick with Blackfriar’s green and Screwfix’s blue, I think these two colours will be fine as-is.
The new yellow is very bright, whereas the original yellow seems more muted – but perhaps dirt will dull it soon enough?
The orignal red was quite orange-y/pinky and I don’t know if I can get a line-marking paint in a shade like that, given that even the original wasn’t as red as the red paint I’ve put down.
Several people have suggested repainting entire stripes at once, for each stripe that needs some repair. I’m not convinced this would look very good, partly because you’d still then have bright stripes that had been repainted next to dull stripes that had been left alone. And I’d need something like 10 times as much paint to do this.
On Twitter, most people seem amused/positive about what I’ve done – this is not a big surprise to me because there’s obviously a selection bias, in that people who follow me are presumably doing so because they approve of my antics in general.
When I’ve been out there doing it, comments have been almost always positive – people making genetics jokes, thanking me for doing it, saying “good job!”.
I suspect people who are mildly against it (or don’t care) are less likely to comment, so perhaps it’s only people who feel strongly that I’m making a mess of it (like our friend above who prompted this post) that say so. I don’t want to miss the “mildly against”s.
Aesthetics and “subtext”
I think with this project it’s not just about a good colour match – there’s several ways in which I think people approve of something and “suspend criticism” even if the repair sticks out fairly clearly as having been a repair job:
- There’s some goodwill towards sincere effort and care, e.g.”someone’s finally doing something about this”. The fact that you can see it’s been repaired either doesn’t matter, or could in fact be a nice feature showing that it’s being maintained rather than being forgotten about and left to decay.
- The “geek factor” – people appreciate this art not just on the surface as “nice decorative colours” but because of what it represents in terms of Cambridge’s role in historical and current DNA research – it doesn’t have to perfect in colour to convey that. And given its location, quite a lot of biologists and medics pass over it! And where a stripe is completely gone, I’m looking up the correct colour using a printout of the full gene – in the colour scheme used by this artwork it’s yellow for G, green for A, red for T and blue for C – so I’m maintaining the scientific accuracy of it (cf the repair to the southern end of the main section, where contractors seem to have just made up the stripes when replacing a short section of tarmac!)
- “Geek factor” again – it’s a bit like DNA repair that happens in the real genome!
What are your thoughts? Is it a big problem if the new red doesn’t eventually blend in with the existing red? Should I wait for a few months to see how the colours bed in?
Otherwise, is leaving it to wear away really the best option? Would those officially responsible (assuming they wanted were willing to spend the money) be able to repair this in some more effective way? (short of removing and replacing every single stripe!)