Atlanta rainbow crosswalks ‘here to stay’ despite federal warning

The Federal Highway Administration is reportedly warning cities about the safety of rainbow crosswalks, but the City of Atlanta is claiming jurisdiction over its LGBTQ landmark.

The FHA, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, sent a letter to Ames City, Iowa, officials in early September saying its recently-installed rainbow crosswalks are a safety concern and a liability, according to the New York Times. 

Ames City officials decided to ignore the letter. The City of Atlanta appears ready to do the same should it receive a letter, according to a spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The rainbow crosswalks were installed at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue in Midtown in July 2017. 

“While we have received no such request, Atlanta’s rainbow crosswalk is located on city-owned streets,” Press Secretary Michael Smith told Project Q Atlanta in a statement. “Much like glitter, the crosswalk is here to stay indefinitely.”

“The Bottoms Administration wishes Atlanta a safe and fabulous Pride,” Smith added.

The Seattle Department of Transportation also received a letter from the FHA in 2015 warning the city about the safety of its 40 artistic crosswalks, which include rainbow crosswalks, according to KIRO-7. The city’s traffic engineer told the New York Times that there are fewer “collisions and conflicts” at the artistic crosswalks than at the non-artistic ones, and they remain in place. 

In its letter to Ames City, the FHA said that crosswalk art “diminishes the contrast between the white lines and the pavement, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of the crosswalk markings and the safety of the pedestrian traffic,” according to the New York Times.

Urban planning practitioners and advocates told the New York Times that the FHA has no evidence to prove its claims. And the agency was unable to provide the publication with research specifically studying the effect of rainbow markings. 

The City of Atlanta spent $196,000 to install the permanent rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of 10th and Piedmont. Road crews damaged the crosswalks in February 2018, but they were restored at no cost to the city.

Project Q asked the Atlanta Police Department for statistics on accidents at the intersection before and since the rainbow crosswalks have been installed. We will update this story once they respond.

Atlanta Pride Weekend is Oct. 12-13.