Durham Region needs more colour

Durham Region is home to six rainbow crosswalks across four cities and as of Sept. 4, the regional council has decided to ban rainbow crosswalks on all regional roads.

Council members noted despite the vote, they are in support of the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ+) community.

If the regional council is as supportive of the LGBTQ+ community as they say, why are half of the current rainbow crosswalks in the region on private not public property?

The only rainbow crosswalks in Durham Region on a public street are in Bowmanville, at Mearns Avenue, in Pickering near the library, and on Brock Road. The other three, Trent University, Durham Region headquarters, and Iroquois Sports Complex, are all in private parking lots or spaces, not public streets.

One way Durham Region could illustrate support to the LGBTQ+ community would be to install more rainbow crosswalks.

John Presta, interim acting commissioner of the Works Committee, said the crosswalks would be a distraction to drivers. Whitby mayor, Don Mitchell, agreed because “small children are attracted to bright colours,” citing it as a possible cause for children to run out into the street.

While child safety is definitely an important concern, one could argue the general functionality of a crosswalk isn’t erased the moment you add a splash of colour. Preventing tragedy is as easy as having a simple conversation about crossing roads safely, so this justification is nothing more than a half-hearted excuse for inaction.

If rainbow crosswalks became a standard part of the urban landscape, children would recognize it as nothing more than an ordinary crosswalk.

Mitchell added the installation and maintenance costs are too much for the region to install the crosswalks.

While the costs may add up to a few thousand dollars per year, you can’t put a price tag on support.

Regional councillor Brian Nicholson said the costs to install a crosswalk of this kind would be between $4,000 and $8,000. Nicholson noted the regional budget and said this cost would be “hardly an excessive amount.”

Meanwhile, the city of Oshawa was willing to spend millions of dollars on other community projects like a gymnasium divider at Northview Community Centre, at a cost of over $150,000, according to the 2018 Approved Capital Projects report.

A rainbow crosswalk, like any kind of crosswalk, is exposed to a lot of wear and tear. Whether it is foot traffic, vehicle traffic, or the weather itself, the colourful paint could easily be washed away from the road, making the investment a harder pill to swallow.

However, different communities in Durham Region have proved there are alternatives to spending a lot on installation.

In Bowmanville, the community fundraised for the costs of paint and came together as a group to paint the rainbow colours onto the crosswalk.

Another example of cost reduction took place in Oshawa.

Trent University Durham added a rainbow crosswalk to their campus through the Trent Durham Student Association and student volunteers.

Not only do these initiatives lower installation costs, they also bring people together to support the LGBTQ+ community.

A rainbow crosswalk is little to ask for in the grand scheme of diversity and inclusion.

The region is hiding behind poor, bureaucratic excuses like safety and cost to justify their lack of support. The LGBTQ+ community is a visible part of society, let’s make it a part of the urban landscape.