For an engineering professional steeped in data and figures and numbers, Olga Messinis keeps some room open in her imagination for magic.
Messinis, the City of Edmonton’s Director of Traffic Operations, was reflecting recently on the seven rainbow crosswalks installed at four intersections in Edmonton to mark Pride Month.
“It’s amazing how you can take a crosswalk, which is really just a sterile form of transportation infrastructure, add paint and reimagine it as a symbol of inclusivity,” said Messinis.
“To say to people who have fought so hard and battled through adversity, that each of you and you and you is welcome. Everybody’s welcome. That’s what the paint communicates.”
Paint + passion and perseverance = a place for people with Pride.
That’s been the basic equation for the vibrantly coloured Pride crosswalks since they appeared on crosswalks in 2015. That was the year the Pride Parade was moved out of downtown Edmonton because of LRT construction, said Messinis, whose job then also included the pavement markings portfolio.
“A group of us were meeting about ideas,” Messinis said. “The Old Strathcona Business Association said wouldn’t it be nice if we painted rainbows.”
A week later, it was so.
Even though there was a bit of resistance.
“From the engineering side of things, initially, there were some tangible concerns,” Messinis said. “Why apply artwork to a roadway? Wouldn’t that make it distracting for drivers and less safe for pedestrians? Good questions.”
Messinis said “at the time I didn’t have the science or data to show the rainbow crosswalks could actually enhance the pedestrian realm as they had not been widely studied.”
The seven Pride crosswalks are located on both sides of the intersections at:
82 Avenue (Whyte) and 106 Street
82 Avenue and 108 Street
84 Avenue and 104 Street
And at 104 Avenue and 109 Street (a partnership with MacEwan University).
Messinis said the Pride crosswalks extend the meaning of the basic, white-lined crosswalk, which is to get people to safety.
“If you think about those two parallel bars in a standard crosswalk, their job is to guide pedestrians to safety, from one corner to the other,” Messinis said. “With a Pride crosswalk, we add colour between those lines and the paint adds another element of safety, a kind of emotional welcome and safety.”
Messinis has an idea for what’s next for Pride crosswalks in Edmonton.
“We would like to do a scramble crosswalk,” said Messinis. “It’s been in my head.”
And in the sterile infrastructure of dry erase markers on her whiteboard.
Check out this quick video of the making and meaning (and painting!) of Pride crosswalks in Edmonton:
Thanks for reading!