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Inspired by Capitol Hill’s rainbows, Seattle rolling out colorful ‘Community Crosswalks’ program

Don't get excited. The rainbow street sign was just a prop (Image: CHS)

Don’t get excited. The rainbow street sign was just a prop (Image: CHS)

Inspired by the rainbow crosswalks of Capitol Hill — and a DIY act of pavement activism in the Central District — the City of Seattle Monday announced a new program that will allow neighborhoods to add their own colors to their streets.

The new Community Crosswalks program “will allow unique crosswalks to be approved and installed through an established process, ensuring that they are safe, reflective of community values and can be maintained,” the announcement of the shared Department of Neighborhoods and Seattle Department of Transportation programs reads.

“This is about celebrating and enhancing community identities,” Mayor Ed Murray is quoted as saying in the announcement. “The iconic rainbow crosswalks on Capitol Hill started a broader conversation on how we can incorporate neighborhood character in the built environment across Seattle. I’m excited to see more history, culture, and community on display for residents and visitors to enjoy.”

In June, the mayor, city officials, and community members were on hand as Seattle unveiled the colors of Gay Pride on six Pike/Pine intersections. While some criticized the $73,000 project for ignoring larger issues affecting the LGBTQ community on Capitol Hill, the crosswalks have become a sort of landmark feature in the neighborhood and a visible symbol of the neighborhood’s gay culture.

With the new program in place, SDOT say it will review any "crosswalks installed or modified outside of this process" like the crosswalk work that showed up in the Central District this summer

With the new program in place, SDOT say it will review any “crosswalks installed or modified outside of this process” like the crosswalk work that showed up in the Central District this summer

Following the Capitol Hill rainbow project, the red, black, and green colors of the Pan-African flag appeared on crosswalks in the Central District. Social activists including The United Hood Movement took credit for the unofficial paint jobs. “Painted crosswalks in other neighborhoods is an idea we are exploring,” an SDOT spokesperson told CHS in August. “We haven’t yet developed a plan or a process for this.”

The new program announced Monday will work in conjunction with the Neighborhood Matching Fund process and lays out a set of requirements including a design and color scheme “reflective of community values” in your neighborhood:

  • The crosswalk must be at a location where there is already a marked crosswalk, and where a vehicle is already required to stop, either due to a stop sign or traffic signal
  • To the extent possible, the crosswalk should be on the lower traffic volume, shorter width streets at intersections. This will help extend the life of markings, and limit overall square footage, and bring cost down
Pavement condition
  • Pavement must be in good condition to help the colored material bond well
  • The crosswalk design must include the two white horizontal markings with standard design and reflectivity to mark the edges of the crosswalk and ensure it meets minimum standards
  • Designs must use only horizontal or vertical stripes to make sure people driving, walking, and biking know these are official crosswalks and designated places for people to cross. Consistency with this style will also keep costs for a community down.
  • Colors for the ladder markings would be at the option of the applicant with approval from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), through the Neighborhood Matching Fund process. SDOT’s vendor must be able to order and supply colors, so options may be limited.
  • No text or logos
  • No octagons, triangles, or other symbols that might be confused with traffic control devices or legends
  • Costs for a typical crosswalk are $25/square foot, depending on length, design, and whether traffic will need to be redirected or stopped during installation
  • Depending on the amount of vehicle traffic on the street, painted crosswalks can last 3-5 years

“To be eligible for an installation by SDOT, applicants will need to adhere to City guidelines for crosswalk locations and designs,” the announcement states. “Crosswalks must be sited where vehicles already stop for a traffic signal or stop sign, the design should consist only of horizontal or vertical bars, and the pavement underneath must be in good condition.”

As for cost, SDOT says the features won’t be cheap: “Crosswalks typically cost about $25 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the design and installation, and can be expected to last approximately 3-5 years based on the amount of vehicular traffic at the location.”

Meanwhile, efforts like the Central District crossings will be reviewed — and removed or “repainted” — if they are determined to be unsafe.

Full details of the program and how to begin applying for the crosswalks and grants can be found here.

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20 thoughts on “Inspired by Capitol Hill’s rainbows, Seattle rolling out colorful ‘Community Crosswalks’ program” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. I note a reasonable compromise in the (Red/Black/Green) Central District crosswalks. The (not at all visible) Black stripes have been returned to a more visible white, and the red and green ones remain.

    • What percent of the central district population is pan African?

      Hopefully we can get colors that represent the diversity of the neighborhood.

    • In your world, is a city only capable of doing a single thing at any given time? Do you really think the entirety of city hall and its workers are devoted to this proposal?

      You’re probably right. There were literally no police officers on the road today, as they were all out painting sidewalks. Mayor Murray was himself manning the paint machine.

      • You sir, win the internets today!

        @Harvey, if money is raised specifically for crosswalks, what’s the problem? Should we only focus on raising money for things you find important?

    • What you said. These crosswalks are beyond ridiculous. Gay crosswalks for a neighborhood less and less gay for many reasons, including rises in rent. Meanwhile, check out the mural of a Black woman at Union and 23rd, a corner less and less Black in real life.

  2. Way to segregate the neighborhoods… Seriously,, aren’t we trying to bring everyone together?? What happened to Equality.. Why must one neighborhood be publicaly marked as Gay, and another publicaly be marked Pan African?? Put money where it’s needed.. Make our Streets and Neighborhoods and Parks SAFER, so WE ALL can walk the streets together!

    • You know when you really know you ought to change jobs, or move, or get out of a relationship, or repair your roof, or clean out the garage, or get in shape so you don’t get diabetes, but it all seems very hard, so you just buy some new shoes that you don’t really need instead? I think cities do that too.

      • I would MUCH rather have cameras installed in and around the Central District than have striped crosswalks. Please put this money towards real safety. Thank you. Who cares about a striped crosswalk anyway when people are driving by public parks and shooting and killing people?

      • Once more, can you not imagine a world where it’s possible to both spend $25/foot on painted crosswalks and fight crime ? It’s easy if you try.

        Also, it costs a wee-bit more to install cameras and build the infrastructure required to send and store all of the data, view all of the data, catalog all of the data, blah blah blah.

      • Yes, we all understand that the city can do more that one thing at one time. Their basic task is to make decisions about how to prioritize the budget and spending across multiple needs such as public safety, transportation, land use, libraries, education, etc. The budget is a complex process, and there is a limited pool of funds. This project is definitely a colossal and stupid waste of money when there are issues like regular shootings, high crime, and crumbling sidewalks. The mayor’s answer to the crumbling sidewalks would be for voters to approve his huge transportation levy in the fall. But wait, that increases the cost of housing for everyone (including renters), so then we need a housing levy. If city leadership has determined that superfluous and tacky colorful sidewalks are a priority for spending tax dollars, they clearly have a lot of money to throw around and don’t need additional levies.

    • And while you’re correct that there needs to be greater focus on making the city safer, this isn’t being done instead of making the city safer. It’s possible to both symbolically celebrate the city’s diversity and, you know, fight crime. There not exactly fighting for the same budget. Pretty sure $25/square foot won’t eat into the policing budget.

      • The 73k spent on Capitol Hill would probably help with the cameras. If they spend that much per neighborhood and added a few more neighborhoods than that would be a good chunk of change.

        $25/square foot adds up.

        Imagine that world!

      • The $73K came from local businesses, not the city.

        $25/square foot doesn’t add up to anything more than a rounding error when you consider the city’s policing and transportation budgets, so the idea it’s this or cameras or more cops is silly. Also consider that some of this painting would occur on streets that need to be re-painted anyway, so there’s literally no extra cost involved.

        You can see for yourself how little money this actually represents:

        $2.8 billion in the transportation budget alone, and people are getting worked up over a few hundred grand.

      • Considering we already have the infrastructure in place for the cameras, the cost of adding additional cameras is minimal.

        Speaking of getting worked up. Why are you?

      • Does the city have the infrastructure? (I legitimately have no idea. I thought the cameras in the CD were installed by the ATF, which presumably handles the infrastructure.)

        I’m not worked up at all, thanks. Note the lack of exclamation points or double question marks signifying extreme questions. I mean, this is a mostly symbolic act that is the financial equivalent to someone here buying a latte with their yearly wages. Do they hand wring over that $4? Yet when it’s the city, it’s OHMYGOD NO MONEY TO FIGHT CRIME DERPDERP.

  3. Can the homeless get the crosswalks painted as well? Maybe this will give them hope while they sleep on the streets.

  4. Personally I don’t like the rainbow crosswalks and find them no safer than a standard crosswalk and actually less comfortable to walk on in daylight because they are so bright and they actually hurt my eyes. And ass a driver I also find them harder to see people in because there is even more visual distraction than simply a pedestrian or group of pedestrians in the crosswalk.

    I would posit that the rainbow crosswalks have NOTHING to do with safety. (If there are statistics that show they are safer than a standard crosswalk then maybe the blog can report on them. I’d be curious. That should be part of the story.)

    On the other hand the striped crosswalks have EVERYTHING to do with place-making: that is, adding a visual element to the neighborhood to celebrate it’s uniqueness in the larger city context. Think gaslamps in the Gaslamp District in Vancouver, BC. Place-making can be done a variety of ways with signs, gas lamps, artwork, and architectural style.

    Pike/Pine has traditionally been one part of the gay ghetto and is still home to the majority of gay bars. But the gay ghetto idea/refuge is fading, fast, and is will soon enough be a footnote in history. Pike/Pine is also changing, very quickly, and some would argue for the better, some for the worse. It is most definitely not soley about gay culture or a gay community anymore so I find the extremely strong visual statement that the rainbow crosswalks provide a bit of an anachronism: it’s about the past and not necessarily about the future.

    And then the Pandora’s Box that the Pike/Pine rainbow crosswalks opened with the “well, if THEY have it then I WANT IT/DESERVE IT/NEED IT to” mentality that has set in. I wonder if the people we ostensibly elect to do and manage the people’s business really thought that through? I do not look forward to, specifically more multi-colored crosswalks across the city. I would look forward to other approaches, artistic approaches, that can be used to define, to place-make neighborhoods, that truly do represent making the neighborhoods individual pearls on the necklace.

    We’ll see what happens?