Ron Cunningham: Camouflage
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:50 p.m.
We all know that graffiti is urban blight.
Local business people spend thousands of dollars repainting defaced buildings. The problem is deemed serious enough that GPD has a special anti-graffiti unit to track down guys with “tag” names like FLAWS and SHEM.
But graffiti's not just ugly, it can be downright hazardous to life and limb.
On my ride home Thursday, I was going through the 13th Street underpass when I had to stop because several students were walking toward me in the designated bike lane.
Some of the students moved over to let me pass, and in doing so they stepped directly into the path of the cyclist coming up behind them.
The kid slammed into the wall and took an ugly tumble. Fortunately, he didn't appear to be injured.
I'd blame the pedestrians for walking in the bike lanes, but for one thing.
Nearly every square inch of the 13th Street underpass is covered in graffiti. It is by far the ugliest piece of real estate on an otherwise neat and well-maintained campus.
And for all practical purposes, the jumble of scrawls, slogans and dreck serves to camouflage the yellow lines and signs that are supposed to distinguish the bike lanes from the ped lanes.
In this instance, those students had entered the tunnel from the west side, where the yellow triangular lane designation signs are so painted over that the casual observer would be hard put to decide which lane is which.
Until it's too late.
Call it the Gator Tunnel of Graffiti Love.
And it's a work in progress.
On more than one occasion I have had to stop in the dimly lighted underpass to avoid colliding with graffiti artists hard at work. Or been forced to swerve to keep from running over the empty paint cans left behind when their work was done.
Oddly, the UF grounds people are pretty diligent about covering up graffiti elsewhere on campus. It is only the 13th Street tunnel that is allowed to stick out like a sore, gaudy, thumb.
As though the tunnel has been declared a free-grafitti zone in the hope of keeping the rest of UF grafitti-free.
Which would be fine, I suppose, if it weren't such an obvious public safety hazard.
Suffering for your art is one thing. Suffering for someone else's art is quite another.
Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people use that tunnel on a busy day. Between classes it can be especially hectic, with walkers and cyclists weaving in and out of each other's way and in a hurry to get somewhere else.
Listen, I'm not a lawyer (although I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express). But, if I were and my client got wiped out in the Gator Tunnel of Graffiti Love, I think I could make a pretty good case for official negligence.
Ironically, the tunnel exists to provide people safe passage across a traffic-jammed 13th.
But be careful folks. It's a painted jungle down there.