Designing safer streets with 3M science
Aug 18, 2021
Photo by Ray Carrington


As our cities grow, urban centers have struggled to keep vulnerable road users, including drivers, bicyclists, scooterists and pedestrians, safe. In the past three years, there has been a more than 30% increase in traffic fatalities, alarming urban planners, designers and engineers alike. 3M Transportation Safety Division (TSD) is working tirelessly to implement creative solutions to promote safer and more efficient streets and traffic direction resources.

“This increase in deaths begs the question: how can we keep all the road users in urban cities safe through the usage of our materials while working with our design and engineering customers?” said Sinan Yordem, 3M Global Segment Manager of Urban Mobility and Analytics.


A Network of Collaborators

In 2018, 3M TSD led an exciting new initiative called Urban Explorers. Three teams of four people from various backgrounds ranging from engineers to marketers were tasked to study road safety challenges presented in four different cities. The teams talked with city officials, architects and urban planners to learn more about their biggest pain points and how 3M can help.

Urban Explorers connected 3M with Smart Growth America (SGA) and its National Complete Streets Coalition. SGA is a leader in equitable mobility and serves as a non-profit, non-partisan alliance of public interest organizations and transportation professionals committed to the development and implementation of policies and practices that ensure safe streets.

Knowing SGA’s mission aligned so closely with 3M TSD’s urban mobility goals, Yordem proudly accepted a seat on their steering committee on behalf of 3M to help inform strategy, collaborate on projects and help make the case for Complete Streets across the country.


When Art Meets Science

SGA and 3M TSD’s joint goal is to find the root cause of increased traffic fatalities. Research shows multiple factors play into this: a mixture of policy, design, choice materials, as well as rules of the road.

“3M and SGA approach this issue from a system of safety perspective, meaning there needs to be multiple components and entities dedicated to making change,” Yordem said. “That’s why our partnership with SGA is important because they focus on policy change as well as funding that goes directly to driving awareness and promoting organizations that focus on road safety.”

One of SGA’s exciting initiatives to drive awareness is its Arts and Transportation Rapid Response Program through their Transportation for America arm. The program is focused on working with community artists to utilize artwork in unique ways to support a transit system impacted by COVID-19. To regain riders and survive today’s financial challenges, transit agencies needed to make riders feel safe and welcome on transit vehicles and near transit hubs.      

“Of the many problems that COVID-19 created, one of them was more people wanting to spend time outside and realizing that there wasn’t enough space for everyone on the road to do so safely,” Yordem said. “Transportation agencies had to take quick action to react to this. We thought, instead of just creating a permanent dedicated space, why not use art to create engagement with community artists and bring awareness about these rapid response programs.”

3M had a chance to sit down with the artists and learn more about their work providing creative solutions for road safety. Artists were encouraged to use and experiment with 3M traffic safety products, including reflective sheeting, pavement markers and other work zone markings in their designs.

“We didn't guide them to use one product over another, we only told them the benefits of each product and let them use that knowledge and materials in their artwork,” Yordem said. “I’m excited to see the messages these artists convey using 3M products.”


Looking to a Safer Future

3M looks forward to continuing its work with SGA to improve urban mobility and road safety.

“SGA’s vision of safe streets for all aligns perfectly with our mission at 3M,” Yordem said. “We are proud of this partnership and will continue to grow and adapt with the changes the world throws at us. It is when work is done for the community, with the community that real change can be made.”

To learn more about 3M’s urban safety and mobility applications, click here. To learn more about Smart Growth America, visit

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