Rainbow crosswalks have graced the streets of Atlanta, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco as a way for municipalities to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents.
Soon Carrboro could join that list, making it the first town in North Carolina to put the rainbow flag on pavement as a permanent symbol of LGBT pride.
“This is a safety message about our community,” said Alderman Sammy Slade. “You can feel safe here.”
Transportation planner Bergen Watterson told the Board of Aldermen colorful crosswalks have been have been growing in popularity across the country as a way to highlight pedestrian crossings and put more art in the public eye.
If approved, the first rainbow crosswalk would span East Weaver Street in front of Carr Mill Mall. A second could be installed on Laurel Avenue after the Town Commons is renovated.
Board members considered two design options, one with rainbow stripes running the full length of the crosswalk, and another that separates the colors with broad white borders.
Alderwoman Bethany Chaney favored the latter, reminding fellow board members that, message aside, the design needs to enhance crosswalks’ visibility to make it safer for pedestrians to use them.
“It seems like safety does need to be a consideration,” said Chaney. “Could we figure out a way to make sure we are monitoring if this is just nice to have, or if it is actually making a difference in the way cars are behaving?”
Chapel Hill recently launched a colorful crosswalk initiative, hiring local artists to design alternatives to the traditional black and white “zebra” crossings at five locations across town. Those crosswalks are painted using Color-Safe paint, a product from Transpo Industries designed to last up to 10 years.
Carrboro town employees estimate it would cost $5,800 to install a rainbow crosswalk using the high-end paint, but Watterson told the board the Public Works Department could do it for roughly a tenth of the cost using Sherwin Williams paint with glass beads added for reflectivity. The $600 paint job would likely need to be refreshed every four to five years, she said.
Board members were enthusiastic but said they want to hear from the town’s arts committee and transportation advisory board before signing off on the project.
Carrboro has a history of supporting LGBT people.
In 1994, Carrboro became the first town in North Carolina to establish a domestic-partner registry.
Former Mayor Mike Nelson, who is gay, served five terms after two years as an alderman. Current Alderman Damon Seils is gay.
In 2014, current Mayor Lydia Lavelle and her partner Alicia Stemper married, holding their wedding ceremony on the Town Commons.
New accessibility sign
Carrboro aldermen are also considering modernizing the symbol used to denote wheelchair-accessible parking in town lots. The logo currently in use shows a stick figure seated atop a circle denoting a wheelchair.
But disability advocates say that image, originally designed in 1968, is ripe for change. The Accessible Icon Project aims to replace the staid and static logo with one that denotes action and agency, using a design created in 2010 that shows a stick figure leaning forward in a wheelchair, with arms poised in the air as if ready to roll.
The dynamic icon has been recently adopted in the cities of Durham and New Bern, as well as in Orange County. While the alternative logo is not approved for use by the Federal Highway Administration for use on traffic-control devices, local officials do have the authority to change the design painted on the ground. Town staff are investigating how the new symbol might be incorporated into parking lot resurfacing projects throughout Carrboro.
Correspondent Elizabeth Friend