Houston News & Search
Long one of Houston’s most colorful neighborhoods with a eclectic mix of shops and eateries, Montrose now boasts Texas’ first gay pride crosswalk.
Crews worked a long day Saturday to install rainbow-painted crossings along all four segments of Westheimer and Taft. By Sunday morning, residents were turning out to take photos along the colorful crosswalk, which will last at least four years.
“It’s beautiful,” said Ham McLain, 55, who moved to Houston eight months ago and stumbled across the intersection on his way back from breakfast. “It makes me proud to live here.”
The crosswalk is the first in Texas designed as the Rainbow Flag, created in San Francisco in 1978, which has become a pre-eminent symbol of the gay-rights social movement. Only a handful of other U.S. cities, including Atlanta, San Francisco and Philadelphia, have similar crosswalks.
Pride Houston, which organizes next weekend’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender celebration downtown, paid the $15,000 cost of the project.
“All it can do is amplify what Houston is about,” said Frankie Quijano, president of Pride Houston. “We welcome everyone, whatever size, shape color… Let it be a beacon that the LGBT community is still here.”
City Councilwoman Ellen Cohen‘s office coordinated the permits and approvals needed to close the street for the work.
The intersection was chosen when a group approached Pride Houston, Quijano said, looking for a way to honor Alex Hill, 21, who was struck and killed there by a hit-and-run driver on Jan. 8, 2016. Hill was crossing Westheimer when witnesses say a driver traveling eastbound ignored the red light and struck Hill.Nearly a year after the incident, Houston police arrested Emmanuel Salgado, 25, for failing to stop and render aid. He remains in jail in Harris County for the felony.
Now the site will celebrate gay pride, while providing extra safety for other pedestrians.
“You can see this from 50 yards away,” Cohen said, as a car inched toward the intersection, slowing long before the crosswalk.
Many cities have painted crosswalks in bold patterns so they are more visible to drivers and denote features of the surrounding neighborhood.
Midtown Management District in Houston painted the intersection of Elgin and Louisiana in 2015, in an effort to increase pedestrian awareness and create a signature block. Street crossings near the Museum of Fine Art Houston were also spruced up to incorporate art into the neighborhood.
Heather Strange, 33, and Kylie Monet, 43, said they were glad to see the design come to Montrose. Taking photos on Sunday morning, both said it certainly made them feel better about inclusivity in the city.
“It is definitely a show of progress for Houston,” Strange said.
Artsy crosswalks, however, are not universally loved. Federal officials have discouraged their use in the past because engineers fear the designs distract drivers and pedestrians. Concerns over their safety led St. Louis officials to say they’d let the painted ones across the city fade, and would not allow others.
Cohen said Montrose – long considered the epicenter of gay culture in Houston – is a fitting place for the first rainbow crosswalk.
“People understand the rainbow and that message of tolerance and acceptance,” she said. “We could have rainbow crosswalks across the city.”
Though the paint might fade over time, the rainbow crosswalk will stay until at least 2021, when work to rebuild Westheimer is expected to start in the blocks surrounding Taft.
With the colors laid Saturday still gleaming, Quijano said there have already been discussions of raising the money to putting down a rainbow again on the rebuilt intersection.
“I’d love to it all over Montrose,” he said. “This is about acceptance and that is a staple of this community.”
Houston News & Search