It’s the end of the rainbow for Sydney’s gay and lesbian district on Oxford Street, Australia’s ABC News reports. A rainbow-painted crosswalk created in February to mark the 35th anniversary of the city’s famed gay and lesbian Mardi Gras fete is causing road safety hazards, according to New South Wales state government officials. But locals are contesting the decision to remove the colorful pathway, calling for it to be a permanent fixture on Oxford Street and remain a symbol of the city’s tolerance.
Meanwhile, a city council safety audit over the contentious crosswalk found that it may actually be a cause for concern, the Guardian reports. New South Wales Roads Minister Duncan Gay told ABC News the city council’s report finds the crosswalk to be a distraction to pedestrians, who have frequently been seen holding up traffic to snap pictures. “The City of Sydney’s council own road safety audit found that the – I’m quoting them, the behavior witnessed on the crossing was considered a high risk of pedestrian vehicle related incidents,” he said. “We saw more than 15 incidents in a month including people lying and sitting on the road and I’ve seen the footage where cars have been queued up as people have been sitting on the road posing for photographs.” However, no accidents were connected to the crosswalk during this period of time.
The pathway was initially installed for a one-month trial period, costing the city an upwards of $67,000 ($65,000 AUD), and will cost another $31,000 ($30,000 AUD) to remove. Clover Moore, Sydney’s lord mayor said she supports the protest to keep the paint. “I’m incredibly disappointed that we’re going to have to spend $30,000 removing something that is a beautiful piece of public art and is very good for the local economy of the area,” she said according to the Guardian. Moore is one of many who feel the crosswalk is emblematic of Sydney’s inclusiveness. A petition is being circulated to keep the gay pride crosswalk and has collected 15,000 signatures.
The petition reads:
“Lesbians and gay men were beaten and bashed on Oxford Street in 1978 and homophobic violence was rife for years. To now have our flag on our street celebrates how far we have come and is a tribute to the battles we have won.”
Referring to the 1978 Sydney gay rights march that prompted the world famous Mardi Gras festival, petitioners are hoping the crosswalk could represent how far the country has come since the march that happened on the same street 35 years ago. Gay said he’s open to finding an alternative solution to honor the gay and lesbian community, but just not in the street.
The crosswalk was due to come down this week, but weather has moved its expiration date to April 10.
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