A federal official has raised concern over a rainbow-colored crosswalk honoring the LGBT community in Lexington, Kentucky, on the grounds that it’s a distracting safety hazard and should be eliminated.
The crosswalk was painted by officials at a busy intersection across from the county courthouse earlier this year to coincide with an annual gay pride festival. The argument back then was that the crosswalk would be safer because it would better catch the attention of motorists.
However, Thomas Nelson, the Kentucky division administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, revealed that the crosswalk art distracts drivers because it is designed to "draw the eye" instead of "commanding the attention." He also indicated that the pedestrian deaths have increased by 9 percent in 2016, an increase not all attributed to crosswalks but still an "alarming increase."
"While we recognize in good faith your crosswalk art was well-intended for your community, we request that you take the necessary steps to remove the non-compliant crosswalk art as soon as it is feasible," Nelson wrote in a letter to Lexington Mayor Jim Gray. The city officials did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The trend is prevalent across the country, where cities are trying to use colorful crosswalk art to add character to downtown shopping and business districts. Atlanta has rainbow-colored crosswalks near popular Piedmont Park.
In St. Louis, some crosswalks have rainbows and fleur-de-lis. However, the Federal Highway Administration has routinely frowned on the practice, telling officials in Buffalo, New York, that their plans to paint crosswalks in a jigsaw-pattern of yellow, green and gray would be a safety concern. Officials in St. Louis have been prompted by the ruling to ban new crosswalk paintings.
"The use of crosswalk art is actually contrary to the goal of increased safety and most likely could be a contributing factor to a false sense of security for both motorists and pedestrians," the Federal Highway Administration ruled back in 2013.
The rainbow crosswalks were installed in Lexington earlier this year with the help of a $5,000 grant from the Bluegrass Community Foundation. The foundation's president and CEO, Lisa Adkins, said that rainbow crosswalks have become common across the nation.
"You cannot go to … any kind of meeting and conference about creating a more vibrant city where you are not talking about things like (crosswalk art) that I think add a lot to the street level experience, whether you are a pedestrian or a bicyclist or in a car," she said.