A city in central Iowa is refusing to remove a recently-installed rainbow-colored crosswalk at a downtown intersection meant to celebrate the diversity and inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community after a division of the Trump administration’s Department of Transportation declared it was “illegal.”
In a letter dated September 5, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requested that Ames City Manager Steve Schainker remove the city’s colorful crosswalks because they violated federal traffic control regulations, CNN reports.
Two of the crosswalks in Ames feature the colors of the inclusive Pride flag, which adds black and brown to the rainbow LGBTQ Pride flag designed by Gilbert Baker in the 1970s.
A third crosswalk features the gender-nonbinary colors of purple, black, yellow and white, while a fourth features the transgender pride colors of blue, white and pink.
According to federal rules, crosswalks can only use white paint.
“Crosswalk art has a potential to compromise pedestrian and motorist safety by interfering with, detracting from, or obscuring official traffic control devices,” the agency wrote in its letter, according to CNN. “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 letter continued, “It also creates confusion for motorists, pedestrians, and other jurisdictions who may see these markings and install similar crosswalk treatments in their cities. 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.”
In response, City Attorney Mark Lambert sent a memo to the Ames mayor and its city council saying the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction over the area where the crosswalks sit.
As a result, Lambert wrote, the state should get to decide what colors the crosswalks are and whether the federal rules had to be imposed on its streets, CNN reports.
“With the system of federalism in the United States, the federal government does not have jurisdiction over everything,” Lambert wrote.
Members of the Ames City Council discussed the issue at a meeting last Tuesday and ultimately decided to ignore the federal request.
One council member, Chris Nelson, said at the meeting, “Do we need to do anything? Can we just accept the letter and say thank you?”