There won’t be any more colourful crosswalks – rainbow or otherwise – on the streets of Campbell River.
City staff wanted council to decide whether or not the city is in favour of “non-standardized” crosswalks at its Monday meeting this week, saying a draft policy on the issue was brought forward last August, but was never approved, creating uncertainty as to where the city stands on the matter.
Staff was recommending council clarify their policy – which was already technically in place – prohibiting non-standardized markings in all city crosswalks, rather than suspending it on a case-by-case basis, as has been the situation until now.
“A standardized crosswalk provides an activity that is well understood by motorists and pedestrians, and is based on proven standard designs and markings,” the staff report reads. “Modifications to these facilities reduces this clarity and puts the city at potential risk if an incident occurs at a location where the standard markings have been modified.”
Council, with the exception of Coun. Larry Samson and Coun. Michele Babchuk, agreed.
“I think there is a place for these,” Samson said. “And in terms of safety, to my knowledge, there has never been an incident on one of these crosswalks. Do we need a policy on what is considered appropriate markings? Absolutely. But to simply say ‘nothing at all,’ I think goes a little too far. I’d rather have some colour in our downtown than just grey pavement.”
While Coun. Colleen Evans agreed that there are positives to the crosswalks being painted, she said there could be other outlets created for artists or people who want to make political or social statements to do so.
“Have we had discussions about other ways of expression besides crosswalks?” Evans asked.
Drew Hadfield, the city’s director of operations, said, “if council would like to entertain other forms of expression downtown, there are opportunities to use sidewalks or other space to provide, let’s say a canvas or palette.”
But whether there have been incidents or not because of non-standardized crosswalks isn’t the issue for Coun. Ron Kerr.
“We’re not making a policy or looking for a policy, we’re confirming the fact that there already is a policy on this issue,” Kerr said. “Crosswalks are a safety device and in my mind, safety is paramount. There are many other opportunities for a safer social expression and exploration. I don’t believe a crosswalk is appropriate.”
Mayor Andy Adams said he was voting in favour of the motion from a fiscal responsibility perspective.
“When we approved using the taxation money to support the public art projects and approved the seashells (referring to the crosswalk at Shopper’s Row and 11th Avenue) for the temporary art project, it was $5,000 up front cost and then $1,000 to refresh it annually,” Adams said. “When you look at the deterioration and the cost of maintenance of the crosswalks versus the standardized equipment that we have for regular routine care and upkeep, it’s a tough pill to swallow from a financial point of view when there are so many other opportunities available.”
Those artistic opportunities will only be expanded council was told, when the city’s Public Art Master Plan – currently being created – is rolled out.
The motion passed, with only Samson and Babchuk opposed, but Coun. Evans followed that motion with a subsequent one that staff ensure that while constructing the Public Art Master Plan, “that they provide an opportunity for artistic installations in our community and create opportunities for freedom of expression on numerous canvases throughout our community, particularly in the downtown core.”
That motion was approved unanimously.