Courtenay council has approved a Pride diversity (rainbow) crosswalk at the intersection of Fifth Street and Duncan Avenue in the downtown core.
The rainbow symbol has celebrated diversity since the late-‘70s when the colours were used in the flag for the Gay Pride Movement. Widely accepted as a symbol of inclusiveness, such crosswalks have been installed throughout North America in recent years. Several Island communities have rainbow sidewalks.
“I think the over-riding concern is that for too long there have been people in our communities who’ve had to live in the shadows,” Coun. Doug Hillian said at Monday’s meeting. “One of the objectives is that we are a diverse community. This is a tangible way of illustrating that.”
Hillian recognizes the costs and risks (vandalism) associated with rainbow sidewalks, but feels such obstacles shouldn’t prevent it from happening.
“To me this rainbow crosswalk is a reminder that discrimination is against the law and that bullying is out of style,” Coun. Erik Eriksson said.
Due to the number of colours, rainbow crosswalks cost about $1,500 to install and another $1,500 a year to refresh. A white-striped crosswalk costs about $500 to install and $500 to refresh, according to city staff. Vandalism is another concern. This summer in Campbell River, a rainbow sidewalk was damaged by car tires marks minutes after it was installed.
Mayor Larry Jangula was the lone member of council against the installation. He suggests the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association deal with the matter, since it proposed the installation.
From speaking with other municipalities, Jangula said rainbow sidewalks have garnered mixed results.
“It doesn’t always get you the result you really want,” he said. “I’m not convinced that there’s any prejudice against them. I think in the past there certainly was.”
He suggests a mural might be a more affordable and appropriate project.
Jangula is also concerned the project might open the door to numerous special interest groups wanting crosswalks installed.
“We have to keep costs down,” he said.