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Iowa Town Defies Trump Administration Plea to Remove Rainbow Crosswalk

Rainbow crosswalk

A federal agency asked the university town to remove colored stripes from crosswalks for safety reasons -- but the feds can't explain why they should have any say in the matter.

LGBTQ Pride won't be erased from the streets of Ames, Iowa, even at the request of the federal government.

Ames, home to Iowa State University, painted Pride colors this month on crosswalks at the intersection of Fifth and Douglas streets, in a relatively busy commercial area. Two of the crosswalks feature the colors of the inclusive Pride flag, a variation on the original rainbow flag that adds black and brown stripes, CNN reports. Another has the trans Pride colors of pink, blue, and white, and the fourth has stripes of purple, black, yellow, and white, representing gender-nonbinary people.

Several other U.S. cities, such as West Hollywood and Chicago, have painted crosswalks in rainbow stripes without interference, as have cities around the world. But for some reason the federal government decided to get involved in Ames.

The Federal Highway Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation, sent a letter to Ames City Manager Steve Schainker dated September 5. It said that for safety reasons, white is the only color that can be used at intersections.

"Crosswalk art has a potential to compromise pedestrian and motorist safety by interfering with, detracting from, or obscuring official traffic control devices," the letter said. "The art can also encourage road users, especially bicycles and pedestrians, to directly participate in the design, loiter in the street, or give reason to not vacate the street in an expedient or predictable manner."

"It also creates confusion for motorists, pedestrians, and other jurisdictions who may see these markings and install similar crosswalk treatments in their cities," the letter continued. "Allowing a non-compliant pavement marking to remain in place presents a liability concern for the City of Ames in the event of a pedestrian/vehicle or vehicle/vehicle collision."

At last week's City Council meeting, members discussed the letter but decided to disregard it, the Ames Tribune reports. It's not clear that the city is in violation of anything, the crosswalks are not on a street that's part of the federal highway system, and it was a request, not an order.

The FHWA "couldn't explain to me how they had jurisdiction over city streets; they were unaware of any penalties and said they were still researching that," City Attorney Mark Lambert said at the meeting, according to the Tribune. "Frankly, I think that according to the manual itself, there's a good argument we're not violating the manual, since there's no prohibition on colors." The manual he referenced is the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways.

The FWHA hadn't asked for a reply to the letter either. So the council opted to ignore it -- and the intersection will remain colorful, inclusive, and proud.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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