While scientists rack their brains over a permanent pothole solution, people all around the world have been taking local pothole woes into their own hands — from masked vigilantes in Oakland to Domino’s Pizza. For one man in New Zealand though, pothole advocacy comes in the form of phallic art.
Geoff Upson, a 30-year-old handyman and self-professed road safety campaigner in Auckland, is somewhat of a local hero known for spray painting neon green dicks on pothole-ridden roads.
“I drew on the road the first time in 2018 out of frustration,” Upson told VICE, after he was met with silence despite having lodged around 20 complaints about a “huge and dangerous pothole” on a local road.
He estimates that he has spray painted “well over 100 potholes,” though he hasn’t actually counted or kept track. He has also spent about NZ$400 ($286) on spray paint this year.
While some potholes get the honor of having a neon green penis drawn around them, Upson simply highlights others with circles and scrawls for help. He said these could at least get drivers’ attention. According to Stuff, there were 59 pothole damage-related compensation requests submitted to the local transport authority Auckland Transport in 2017.
In 2015, a British road artist known as Wanksy gained brief fame for chalking penises over potholes to get them filled faster. Now, Upson’s unconventional method of pothole advocacy has apparently inspired others across the country to do the same too.
“I’ve seen a few copycats have also drawn on unsafe potholes in other areas of New Zealand,” he said.
According to Stuff, the potholes often remain unfilled despite Upson’s drawings. They would usually get fixed, however, whenever the phallic graffiti became the subject of media reports.
A spokesperson from Auckland Transport said in April that they are reporting the “culprit” behind the “graffiti” to the police, and will be charging for the cost of paint removal, local news outlet NZ Autocar reported.
“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 said that he was at the local police station Friday to give a formal statement “with regards to some of [his] drawings,” adding that he’s been “fully cooperative with the police officers doing their job.”
While local officials are out to stop Upson’s attention-grabbing work, he receives an outpouring of support on social media.
“Keep up the good work mate,” one Facebook user wrote on Upson’s Facebook page.
“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,” read another comment.
Upson said that he feels “nervous” about the potential charges and is especially concerned if it involves jail time — since he would not be able to earn money to repay his debts — but remains dissatisfied with the transport authority’s response.
“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 said.
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