Skip to main content

Spilled Milk, Colorful Crosswalks and ‘Cycle Snakes’

5 Fascinating Facts About Road Markings

Walk, bike or drive down any road today and you’ll notice that road markings are essential to maintaining safety and order in our constantly moving, modern world.

But did you know that our highways and roads have a dividing center line today thanks to a spilled milk incident more than a century ago? It was in 1911, in Wayne County, Michigan, that Edward N. Hines, a member of the county road commission, noticed a leaky milk wagon dripping a trail of white liquid down the road. At that moment, it dawned on him that painting a center line down the street could separate opposing traffic, an idea that has since been heralded as the single most important traffic safety device in the history of automobile transport.

Read on to learn more intriguing facts about road surface markings:

1. Road markings have a variety of requirements. Helping to inform, guide and protect us, road markings should provide enough traffic information without being distracting. They need to be clearly visible at night and in the rain.

2. Until recently, yellow and white were the dominant colors in road markings. Today, as traffic demographics are changing, specialized colors – such as red, blue or green – are being used more widely to influence the behavior of road users. The paints used in road markings need to be made from durable pigments that can hold up in heavily trafficked areas.

3. Easily dispersible (ED) pigments are innovating the way paints are manufactured for road markings. Clariant’s ED organic pigments eliminate the need for an extra grinding step in the manufacturing process, allowing the pigment to be dispersed faster. This saves time and significantly improves the eco-footprint in paint manufacture.

Road Markings in Sao Paulo

4. In 1948, Swiss businessman Robert Ehrismann, and his eponymous company, was the first to use an automated machine to paint roads. The company’s first project was a stretch of road that ran from the Swiss cities of Basel to Chiasso – painting a single line that extended 30 km, nearly 18 miles.

5. As bike lanes are growing in importance around the world, cities and towns are using innovative road markings to protect cyclists. In Copenhagen, Denmark, where nearly 50 percent of workers commute by bike, the city’s Cykelslangen (Cycle Snake) is one of the city’s greatest treasures. The 13-foot wide, 721-foot long orange bike path, a “superhighway” for cyclists, slithers through the city’s waterfront shopping district, to increase the efficiency of their daily commutes.