Motorists and pedestrians had a brand new perspective of 10th and Piedmont Avenue in 2015. There was a project to paint rainbow crosswalks in Midtown for the launch of Atlanta Pride. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

Atlanta’s rainbow crosswalks here to stay, says mayor

The federal government has not asked the city of Atlanta to remove the rainbow crosswalks at 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue, but even if it did, the city wouldn’t comply, said a spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

In recent years, the Federal Highway Administration, citing safety concerns, has asked cities across the country to remove the rainbow crosswalks — a prominent municipal symbol of gay pride.

The latest, according to the New York Times, is Ames, Iowa.

The news, coupled with the preparations for the 49th Annual Pride Celebration in Piedmont Park this weekend, caused Bottoms’s press office to be inundated with questions about whether the city’s own rainbow crosswalks were in the federal government’s crosshairs.

“While we have received no such request, Atlanta’s rainbow crosswalk is located on city-owned streets,” said Bottoms Spokesman Michael Smith. “Much like glitter, the crosswalk is here to stay indefinitely. The Bottoms Administration wishes Atlanta a safe and fabulous Pride.”

The city of Ames has thus far rebuffed the government’s request and in the process, made national headlines about how the small Midwestern town is taking on the administration of U. S. President Donald Trump. The city is home to roughly 66,000 people, about half of whom are students.

In the Federal Highway Administration’s Sept. 5 letter to Ames city leaders, the government cites no safety statistics or studies indicating that colorful crosswalks pose a greater threat to pedestrians than the typical plain white stripes.

“The purpose of aesthetic treatments and crosswalk art is to ‘draw the eye’ of pedestrians and drivers, in direct conflict with commanding the attention of drivers and motorists to minimize the risk of collision,” the letter said.

The government’s failure to identify any reports showing the rainbow crosswalks received more injuries bothered Jamie Ensely, president of the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that works within the Republican Party to advocate for gay and lesbian rights and has already endorsed Trump in the 2020 election.

“I would like to see statistics or a study from the federal highway administration, that states people are being injured and that car accidents have been caused from rainbow crosswalks,” Ensely said.

In Atlanta, the crosswalk at 10th and Piedmont at the southwest corner of Piedmont Park still resonates emotionally with many in Atlanta’s LGBT community, according to Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. Temporarily painted in 2015 for Atlanta Pride week and then permanently instated in 2017, Atlanta was among the earliest cities to install a rainbow crosswalk.

The intersection was once home to Outwrite Bookstore & Coffee House, an important gathering spot for the city’s LGBT community. Graham said the community often went there in anticipation of important court decisions or to protest.

“I’m certainly pleased with the mayor’s response,” Graham said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X