30-year-old Geoff Upson had lodged nearly 20 complaints regarding a "huge and dangerous pothole" on a local road. When no one responded, he took out his spray paint can.
Potholes are a constant nuisance everywhere. While residents are tired of lodging complaints to get them fixed, municipal bodies struggle to keep up with the repair work. Sometimes though, these governing organizations overlook the local pothole woes and prioritize other issues at hand. This is where a pothole advocate from New Zealand comes in. 30-year-old Geoff Upson has taken it upon himself to get these cavities fixed by resorting to an unusual strategy. The self-professed road safety campaigner in Auckland spray paints neon green-colored penises on roads that are ridden with potholes.
Speaking to VICE, Upson recalled feeling exhausted and infuriated when met with silence despite having lodged nearly 20 complaints regarding a "huge and dangerous pothole" on a local road. This is when the idea of using a phallic art to grab attention was born in his mind. "I drew on the road the first time in 2018 out of frustration,” said Upson, who is somewhat of a local hero for his efforts. Although he hasn't actually kept track, Upson did provide an estimate saying he has sprayed "well over 100 potholes" and spent around NZ$400 (US$286) on spray paint this year.
The phallic-shaped art is not featured around every pothole. Sometimes, he just highlights a few of them with circles and scrawls for help. If not fixed, Upson hopes that at least the bright spray paint would get the driver's attention and help avoid any damages to their vehicle. Indeed that's not an unusual objective as the local transport authority Auckland Transport received 59 pothole damage-related compensation requests in 2017.
Upson's unconventional approach has reportedly inspired many across the country to do the same. "I’ve seen a few copycats have also drawn on unsafe potholes in other areas of New Zealand," he said. Despite his efforts, the potholes he has drawn on remain unfilled and only get fixed when it draws the attention of the media. Back in April, an Auckland Transport spokesperson said that they are reporting the "culprit" who created the "graffiti" to the police.
They also said that the person will be charged for the cost involved in the removal of the paint. "The person responsible has placed themselves at risk, as well as potentially causing a safety risk and a distraction for other drivers," they said. Upson has given a formal statement "with regards to some of [his] drawings" at the local police station last month and has been "fully cooperative with the police officers doing their job." While police are out to prevent Upson's attention-grabbing drawings, he has been flooded with love on social media.
Actually, that’s bloody brilliant … we need an army of ‘phallic artists’ to go forth and do this on every pothole and force something to be done about them, wrote one Facebook user. Upson is worried about the potential charges against him but more than that he is dissatisfied with the response of the transport authority. "Mostly I am disappointed that Auckland Transport have told the media they want to prosecute me when they are still making almost no effort to repair unsafe potholes and undulations on roads I have to drive on a daily basis," he shared.
This isn't the first time that people have used penis shapes to get potholes fixed. Back in 2015, a British road artist known as Wasnksy gained traction for chalking phallic-shaped art over potholes to get them filled faster. "They [potholes] don't get filled. They'll be there for months. People will drive over the same pothole and forget about it. Suddenly you draw something amusing around it, everyone sees it and it either gets reported or fixed," the artist said according to BBC.
Cover image source: Facebook | Geoff Upson Road Safety Campaigner