Metro Weekly

Iowa city ignores Trump administration’s demand to remove rainbow crosswalks

City of Ames opted to maintain its inclusive crosswalks, arguing that the FHWA had failed to justify its request

Ames rainbow crosswalk, gay news, metro weekly

Ames’ LGBTQ crosswalks — Photo: Ames Tribune

An Iowa city has politely ignored the Trump administration’s request to remove its rainbow crosswalks.

The city of Ames, Iowa, has an intersection featuring four crosswalks in various pro-equality colors: two rainbow crosswalks featuring additional stripes to represent people of color, a crosswalk in the colors of the trans pride flag, and a fourth crosswalk representing the gender nonbinary flag.

But apparently those crosswalks fell afoul of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which sent the city a letter last month telling them that the pro-equality intersection violated federal traffic control standards, CNN reports.

“Crosswalk art has a potential to compromise pedestrian and motorist safety by interfering with, detracting from, or obscuring official traffic control devices,” the letter, dated September 5, states. “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.”

The FHWA argued that the rainbow crosswalks would create “confusion” for motorists and pedestrians, and worried that it might lead other cities to “install similar crosswalk treatments.”

But rather than stress about inspiring other jurisdictions to show support for their LGBTQ residents, the city instead rejected the Trump administration’s arguments.

Ames City Attorney Mark O. Lambert penned a memo to the mayor and city council stating that the FHWA lacks jurisdiction over the city’s roads where the crosswalk is installed.

He also noted that the FHWA hadn’t threatened penalties should the city fail to comply.

At a recent council meeting, Lambert said that 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,” the Ames Tribune reports.

“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,” he said.

“My only question is, do we need to do anything?” asked council member Chris Nelson. “Can we just accept the letter and say thank you.”

Lambert noted that the FHWA hadn’t requested a response from the city, so they could choose to ignore it. And that’s exactly what they opted to do.

Speaking at the meeting, local resident Bill Diesslin said the FHWA had “misinterpreted their own rules” and was “wrong, just outright wrong.”

“They have a definition of crosswalk, which where I think the [FHWA] is getting bent out of shape,” he said. “The crosswalk lines are white pavement marking that identify the crosswalks — the rainbow crossing in Ames has white lines demarcating, so it’s consistent with federal recommendations.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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