LGBTQ rainbow-colored crosswalks

Many people think multi-colored crosswalks are cute.  The Federal Highways Administration [FHWA] on the other hand, thinks that colorful pavement markings can obscure or perhaps distract from other essential safety markings.

One question with arty crosswalks concerns their conspicuity, or lack thereof, in the dark, especially as it would seem very unlikely that the colored paint will contain a high-glass-bead content or similar reflective treatment.  Many colors are hard to see in the dark, even when illuminated by street lights.  [Wikimedia Commons]

Some will say this is over-officious but it is easy to argue that the FHWA has a very important viewpoint on this topic.  After all, where does it end?  What other causes might end up with some new color scheme causing potential confusion at one of the deadliest places in America… its roads!

You might think I’m exaggerating, but…

Apparently, colored roosters every 10-12 yards up the center line can have a happy significance, too.  Provincetown, MA.  (Copyright image, 2017.)

So is this really an important issue?

Well, there is a huge book and associated website out there, called ‘The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices’ [MUTCD] and its role is to enable all 50 states, plus DC to have exactly what it says in the title: traffic signs and pavement markings that are identical, all around the USA.  And the need for this is self-evident — so that when anyone drives around the country they understand the messages being given to them by the signs and markings.

The issue can get even more serious when foreign visitors or new immigrants are driving and can’t possibly have a clue what aberrant signs might mean.

I’ve been lucky enough to drive and to instruct in most of the states, and while doing so I have photographed many signs and markings being badly used or even totally incorrect… and yet people’s lives can depend on this!

[Wikimedia Commons]
So, as nice an idea as it might seem, can we please keep happy variations of important signs and markings within check, before somebody really does get hurt or killed because of such issues?

Incidentally, the catalyst for this post was an article, Atlanta defends its rainbow crosswalks as symbols of pride. Federal highway officials say it impacts road safety.



3 Replies to “LGBTQ rainbow-colored crosswalks”

    1. Sondra, there are several parts to the answer to your comment but let’s deal with your rather serious “garbage homophobes” accusation first: Having read the full article, I can see no reference or inference whatsoever in relation to homophobia, and it certainly doesn’t play any part at all in our viewpoint about road/pavement markings.

      Secondly, not only all developed nations in the world but also the world itself — in the form of a 1949 U.N. resolution — have laws to maintain the maximum possible uniformity in traffic signs and the aforementioned pavement markings. The reason is a long-known need for maximum clarity so that the highest-possible proportion of drivers — including foreign visitors wherever that is applicable — can understand the regulations and the safety warnings. And in this scenario of ‘rainbow crosswalks,’ it is not the road safety people who have broken any regulations, it is local politicians who are apparently prepared to throw caution to the wind, to do what? To support a cause which has nothing whatsoever to do with roads or vehicular transportation. The politicians in question might be said either to be seeking popularity **and votes** by re-painting crosswalks in pretty but non-conforming colours, or to have no respect whatsoever for long-established and proven road safety methodology.

      So does it really matter whether some crosswalks are painted in rainbow colours? Well for starters, your question about how many people might have been killed — and let’s not forget “injured” — as a result of this cannot be answered because it is immensely unlikely that anyone is keeping specific statistics on it. Any instances of someone being Killed or Seriously Injured [KSI] at a rainbow crosswalk will almost inevitably be lumped together with all other crosswalk incidents (of which there already are far too many).

      However, given the precedent created by rainbow crosswalks, the real question is: Where will this stop? How many large charitable or social organizations are there in the USA? How many thousands? And what is going to happen if only a small percentage of those bodies are allowed to have their own weird and wonderful variations of traffic signs or pavement markings? The answer to that last question is, of course, injuries and deaths. And all so that what? So that people who either don’t understand the complexities of best-practise road safety, or just don’t care about it, can have some artwork moment of glory that could easily have been created in a location that is NOT on a road. (Huge murals on buildings spring readily to mind.)

      I’m still waiting for someone in Massachusetts to explain to us why painting big colorful roosters every few yards along the center-line of a public street was either essential or at least more important than standardised signs and markings. (See the photograph in the original article.)

      I hope you noticed that the Federal Highways Administration [FHWA] has not mandated that the existing multi-coloured crosswalks be removed. It has merely expressed concern, and in our opinion, they are right to do so.

      With over 100 people, on average, killed on America’s roads every single day, it sadly is clear that the standards and/or the achievements here are not as good as in other developed nations. The reason I am making this point is that the last thing the USA needs is any form of slip-back in safety standards whatsoever.

      Thank you for posting your comment.

  1. This strikes me as one of the most silly developments in road marking yet.
    As I recall the basic purpose of road signs and markings are to Guide, Warn or Give Orders.
    In the context of Road Safety, this is vital to safe use of the transport network across the whole country.
    So where does support for LGBT etc groups fit in to these lifesaving road safety functions ? How does it inform an out of state driver when they drive through Atlanta for their first time ?
    Are the stopping Distance tables somehow revised to permit an extra 100 yds allowance whilst a Driver works out just WTF all the coloured lines mean they have to do and why people are crowding onto them ?
    Such a supportive, Right On idea for a minority group – and there is nothing at all wrong with that – but surely, NOT on public highways where hesitation, confusion and distraction COST LIVES.

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