Coquitlam will have a rainbow crosswalk.
The “symbol… of the city’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness” will be located at Burlington Drive and Pinetree Way next to city hall and steps away from Spirit Square, according to a staff report.
Council voted in favour of the initiative during Monday’s meeting, coming at the end of what had become a contentious debate in the community and on social media.
“I did find the way in which this was approached in a couple of instances was not conducive to bringing everyone together,” Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said during the meeting.
“I am saddened it did get as divisive as it did, especially since this is about inclusivity,” added Coun. Teri Towner.
The city has budgeted $10,000 for the crosswalk but engineering general manager Jozsef Dioszeghy said it will likely cost much less.
The amount is higher because at the time the estimate was made, staff had not settled on a location. Given that Burlington is much smaller than some of the other intersections that were considered, Dioszeghy said he expects the price to be lower than the estimate.
“It is not going to be as cheap as buying a roller and a gallon of paint but it won’t be $10,000,” he said.
The crosswalk will be made with a special kind of epoxy paint that seals and is easy to maintain but is not slippery when wet, Dioszeghy added, noting it will have to be painted during dry weather.
Staff considered a number of high-profile intersections for the installation, including Poirier Street between the rec centre and Dogwood Pavilion; Brunette Avenue at Marmont and King Edward streets; Lansdowne Drive or David Avenue at one of the Coquitlam Crunch trail crossings; Pinetree Way at Lougheed or Barnet highways; and Trevor Wingrove Way in Town Centre Park.
Burlington at Pinetree was chosen because it is highly visible and universally accessible, according to the staff report. The document noted that the location has a lot of pedestrian activity and is adjacent to city hall and Spirit Square, which holds a number of community events throughout the year.
“The installation of a rainbow crosswalk is a symbol and statement of the city’s commitment to diversity and inclusiveness,” said the staff report. “The rainbow crosswalk, while closely aligned with the LGBTQ community, is also a recognized symbol of inclusiveness of a broad range of individuals, communities and social movements.”
While council voted in favour of installing the crosswalk, the decision was not unanimous.
Coun. Terry O’Neill spoke against the proposal, saying that if council allowed the installation of a rainbow crosswalk, it would set a precedent that would force the city to adopt other symbols, possibly from religious groups or other organizations.
“I think we are opening the door in an unfair way by adopting symbols that the vast majority associate with one particular group,” he said, later adding: “It is unfair and it is not good city policy.”
Towner first brought up the subject of a rainbow crosswalk during a committee meeting last year but the issue received another push when Nicola Spurling and Ian Soutar of the Tri-Cities Pride Society presented to council last month. They called for rainbow and trans crosswalks to be installed at several prominent intersections.
“One is a universal symbol of acceptance and one is showing support for a very marginalized group in the community,” Spurling told The Tri-City News at the time. “I am looking for a symbol of diversity and acceptance that is very prominent, that shows people their city welcomes and accepts them.”
A few weeks ago, local business owner Katrina Shelast and Access Youth Outreach Service executive director Jerome Bouvier put together an online FundRazr campaign with the goal of funding the crosswalk.
Dioszeghy said the crosswalk will be funded with money from the city’s infrastructure reserve fund but he noted that council is discussing the idea of putting up signage explaining the significance of the rainbow. If that initiative moves forward, he said staff would revisit the idea of using money raised by Shelast and Bouvier.
If the city does not accept the money, the pair told The Tri-City News last month that they will use the funds to support a local organization or community group.