We’ve all seen them~those lovely rainbow crosswalks in cities that represent inclusivity and are often tied into events celebrating gay, nonbinary and transgender people. Those crosswalks also just make people happy. In Peace River Alberta which has the most northern Pride Parade the city decided to paint a signalled pedestrian crosswalk in rainbow colours after examining the experience of rainbow crosswalks in Edmonton. In Edmonton’s pilot project summary the city found that
“the rainbow crosswalks did not decrease pedestrian safety. Stopping and encroaching behaviour differed at locations with and without the rainbow crosswalks. The observed motorist behaviour was consistent with the survey findings where people felt the rainbow crosswalks made intersections safer and were not a distraction.”
After over two months of observation and a survey of 3200 people, Edmonton found that motorists who drove through the rainbow crosswalks did not find them distracting. Based upon that information, Peace River painted up their own. The city’s engineer found that the painting of crosswalks did conform to the Highway Marking Guide and to the Transportation Association of Canada standards.
But in the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department the town of Ames Iowa (population of 65,000) received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration (FHA) saying that the rainbow crosswalk in that city was a “safety concern, and a liability for the city”. In the United States the FHA regulates national roadway signs and traffic signals. The letter wanted the City of Ames to remove their rainbow sidewalks.
The Ames City Council ignored the letter (by unanimous consent) after hearing the city’s lawyer respond : “Honestly, I just do not think they (the FHA) have any jurisdiction over the roads in the city that we’re paying for with our own tax money,”
There is absolutely no reason NOT to have colourful crosswalks in any design. New York City, Seattle and Portland Oregon all have colourful crosswalks and they have not caused driver distraction or resulted in an increase of vehicular crashes. As the New York Times reports the FHA told the City of Ames that painted crosswalks:
“diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of pedestrian traffic. The purpose of aesthetic treatments and crosswalk art is to ‘draw the eye’ of pedestrians and drivers in direct conflict with commanding the attention of drivers and motorists to minimize the risk of collision.”
There’s no data to this odd governmental critique of a city’s colourful crosswalks, and the way it is written talks more about a bureaucrat’s pet peeve, not any actual impediment to pedestrian or vehicular behaviour.Read more »