The Federal Highway Administration is not keen on crosswalk art and has asked one town in Ames, Iowa, to “take the necessary steps to remove the non-compliant crosswalk art as soon as it is feasible.”

(The Chicago crosswalk pictured here includes words such as, “yell, sniff, yield, go.”)

Across the world, residents, mobility advocates, and municipalities are repainting crosswalks to represent community values, denote inclusion and representation, and enhance pedestrian safety. Local projects include our neighbors in Rochester and Niagara Falls, which host colorful, vibrant crosswalks, designed and painted by youth and residents at intersections near schools, parks and neighborhoods.

Ames, IA, recently painted crosswalks featuring a minority-inclusive rainbow, gender non-binary pride colors, and pride transgender colors. St. Louis, MO, painted fleur-de-lis and rainbow crosswalks. Lexington, KY, also painted rainbow crosswalks in celebration of pride month.

All of these communities were asked by the FHWA to remove the colorful crosswalks as soon as feasible.

Advocates for colorful crosswalks, including residents and officials of the municipalities in which they are located, have pushed back on the removal requests, noting there is no data or research to support the FHWA’s position that the colorful crosswalks are unsafe. In fact, the FHWA has noted the colorful crosswalks, “had no such discernible effect on safety or crash reduction.”

The City of Buffalo does not allow colorful crosswalks to be implanted, even for experimental purposes.

The FHWA does allow “subdued-colored” treatments in uniform, systematic, and repetitive patterns.

Per the FHWA:

The FHWA’s position has always been, and continues to be that subdued-colored aesthetic treatments between the legally marked transverse crosswalk lines are permissible provided that they are devoid of retroreflective properties and that they do not diminish the effectiveness of the legally required white transverse pavement markings used to establish the crosswalk. Examples of acceptable treatments include brick lattice patterns, paving bricks, paving stones, setts, cobbles, or other resources designed to simulate such paving. Acceptable colors for these materials would be red, rust, brown, burgundy, clay, tan or similar earth tone equivalents. All elements of pattern and color for these treatments are to be uniform, consistent, repetitive, and expected so as not to be a source of distraction. No element of the aesthetic interior treatment is to be random or unsystematic. No element of the aesthetic interior treatment can implement pictographs, symbols, multiple color arrangements, etc., or can otherwise attempt to communicate with any roadway user.