Orange County

Carrboro OKs NC’s first rainbow crosswalk to show LGBT support – with 2 added stripes

Mayor Ed Murray, center right, walks on a new rainbow-colored crosswalk for Pride Week in Seattle on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Murray unveiled one of the 11 new crosswalks in the historically gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood, saying the display “says something about Seattle.”
Mayor Ed Murray, center right, walks on a new rainbow-colored crosswalk for Pride Week in Seattle on Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Murray unveiled one of the 11 new crosswalks in the historically gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood, saying the display “says something about Seattle.” AP

North Carolina’s first rainbow crosswalk is coming to Main Street in Carrboro, but with two added stripes.

The Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve the repainting of a mid-block crossing on East Main Street in the heart of the downtown business district.

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The rainbow design supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, continuing the town’s history of advocacy for LGBT people. Carrboro elected the state’s first openly gay and lesbian mayors in 1995 and 2013 respectively, and in 1994 was the first municipality to create a registry for domestic partners.

But Carrboro leaders are taking an extra step to celebrate inclusion and diversity, adding black and brown stripes to the traditional pride flag to symbolize support for LGBT people of color. The redesigned flag was first introduced in Philadelphia earlier this year to recognize marginalized racial groups within the LGBT community.

“I think one of the most important aspects of doing this is it makes the streets feel like it belongs to the people,” said Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell.

The rainbow crosswalk will be painted by public works staff at a cost of roughly $600 to $1,000.

New landmark

The Board of Aldermen also gave the nod to a repainting plan for the intersection of West Weaver Street and Laurel Avenue, where a quartet of crosswalks form a skewed square in front of Town Hall.

Pointing to murals on the streets of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as an example, Carrboro’s Arts Commission suggested the board consider repainting not just the crosswalks, but instead turning the entire intersection into a work of art, an idea board members enthusiastically embraced.

Alderwoman Bethany Chaney said it would be chance to ask local artists to come up with designs to make the space a landmark.

“There’s opportunity to think more about Carrboro in general as a creative place, an artistic place, and a safe place,” Chaney said.

crosswalk2
A rainbow crosswalk was installed on West Esther Street next to Pulse Nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people in June 2016 in Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017 Todd Stewart AP

Chapel Hill began piloting a colorful crosswalk program last year, featuring designs created by local artists. Like Chapel Hill, Carrboro will focus its repainting efforts on town-maintained roads. Town Planner Tina Moon told the board the N.C. Department of Transportation would not likely accept alternative crosswalk designs on state roads without additional review and approval.

Although town leaders hope the bold colors will send a message to motorists to watch out for pedestrians, Moon cited studies issued by the Federal Highway Administration suggesting the benefits of colorful crosswalks may be largely cosmetic.

“They’ve kind of come to the general consensus that they’re not really sure if this necessarily improves visibility,” she said.

Aldermen emphasized they want broad white borders with reflective paint to increase visibility on the East Weaver Street crossing. The board voted to proceed with the repainting and come up with a community-driven process to design public art for the intersection in front of Town Hall.

While Carrboro’s rainbow crosswalk would be the state’s first, at least one other municipality could weigh a similar project in the near future, as advocates in Asheville are lobbying the city council to consider where rainbow crossings might fit in the town’s streetscape.

Elizabeth Friend: efriend.email@gmail.com

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