Surrey rainbow crosswalk opponents say it could cost $100,000. That's wrong

By the end of the month, a crosswalk at Old Yale Road and University Drive near Holland Park in Surrey, B.C. will be painted in all the colours of the rainbow to celebrate the LGBTQ community.

If you ask one group of Surrey residents, they’ll tell you the crosswalk could cost as much as $100,000 to install and maintain.

But Surrey’s mayor will tell you that’s wrong, a “message of intolerance that is hiding behind a cost.”

Coverage of rainbow crosswalks on Globalnews.ca:

The City of Surrey is set to paint a rainbow crosswalk at an intersection near a park that forms part of the path for its annual Pride parade, which will take place this year on June 30.

The crosswalk comes at the behest of Mayor Linda Hepner, who approved its installation personally.

“I often times have the authority to, say, light up the plaza here at city hall,” she told Global News.

“I did it for Humboldt, I did it for Pride last year, I did it for many other occasions. It’s a small enough thing that I can do that entirely on my own.”

The cost to install the crosswalk is $8,500 over a five-year lifespan — $6,500 more than what it costs to install a regular crosswalk.

Hepner said the crosswalk is important to her as a symbol of inclusiveness.

“I often drive over to transit meetings and pass the one in New Westminster,” she said.

“I think, you know what, that sends a message that I want people to embrace, and that is one of inclusivity.”

READ MORE: City of Surrey to install rainbow crosswalk

But the crosswalk means something very different for a group of people whose concerns about cost aren’t supported by numbers provided by the city.

Tanya Gaw, a resident of Surrey’s Fleetwood neighbourhood, has started a letter-writing campaign to the City of Surrey in an effort to keep the crosswalk from being installed.

The campaign involves a formal letter that claims a rainbow crosswalk would cost approximately $50,000 to install and $50,000 to maintain in three years’ time — a total of $100,000.

A rainbow crosswalk painted at the intersection of 8 Avenue and Centre Street, near the Calgary Tower.

A rainbow crosswalk painted at the intersection of 8 Avenue and Centre Street, near the Calgary Tower.

Global News

Those concerns are based on an experience in the Township of Langley.

There, an artist proposed a rainbow crosswalk at the intersection of Mavis Road and Glover Road for which she would organize the paint and volunteers to do the job herself, the Langley Times reported.

Township staff later issued a report saying the crosswalk needed precise measurements to meet guidelines set down by the Transportation Association of Canada. Staff also said all four crosswalks at that intersection should be painted “in order to provide consistency and minimize confusion for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.”

The cost of painting rainbows on all four crosswalks was estimated at about $50,000, with an additional cost of $50,000 to maintain every three to five years.

Installing one at a different intersection would bring the cost down to $12,000, staff said.

READ MORE: Merritt council rejects students’ rainbow crosswalk. Vancouver lawyers offer their lots instead

Using information from Langley, Gaw’s campaign alleged that such a crosswalk would cost $50,000 to install in Surrey, too.

The info is contained in a letter that she sent out to 250 people, with instructions to pass it on to the City of Surrey. The letter reached various Vancouver-area media, as well.

But the rainbow crosswalk’s cost wasn’t the only concern for Gaw, who has also been involved with Culture Guard, an organization that claims to stand up for “community values” but has also been labelled a “hate group.”

She said she has spoken to “hundreds” of people about matters such as rainbow crosswalks, and that “we’re opposed to the agenda of the LGBTQ because they’ve gone beyond what would be reasonable for a group who was just wanting respect to the point where it’s now causing divisiveness,” Gaw said.

“With something like this, it’s just causing resentment.”

FILE - A rainbow crosswalk in Vancouver at the corner of Davie and Bute Streets is shown in this file photo. The Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove town council in Newfoundland voted Tuesday evening to create two brightly-coloured crosswalks in the community of about 2,000 people.

FILE - A rainbow crosswalk in Vancouver at the corner of Davie and Bute Streets is shown in this file photo. The Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove town council in Newfoundland voted Tuesday evening to create two brightly-coloured crosswalks in the community of about 2,000 people.

Rebecca Lau/ Global News

Gaw said LGBTQ initiatives are “no longer about the common person who had a need or was being bullied, now those people are the greatest bullies we have in Canada right now,” she said.

Gaw was asked to clarify her point — that she believes LGBTQ people, a community whose young people are three times more likely to experience bullying than heterosexual youth — are the biggest bullies in Canada.

She said, “at this point, yes, right now, we do have a problem with it.”

For Alex Sangha, the founder of Sher Vancouver, a non-profit organization that works to support LGBTQ South Asians and their loved ones, installing a rainbow crosswalk is another sign that Surrey is taking steps to reach out to this community.

“We are taxpayers,” he said.

“We are members of our community and our city and we should also be included in the programming and services.”

Presented with Hepner’s statement — that cost concerns are just masking a message of intolerance — Sangha said, “Exactly.”

“I think it’s just another excuse by a bunch of homophobic and transphobic people,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if it was free, it doesn’t matter if someone donated the rainbow crosswalk, people would still be complaining about it.”

Hepner has also said that the crosswalk is a way of reaching out in a growing city where 102 languages are spoken.

“I think the message has been way beyond LGBTQ and has broadened its appeal into being one of inclusiveness,” she said.

Sangha agrees.

“I think it sends the right message,” he said.

Surrey’s rainbow crosswalk is expected to be installed in time for the city’s Pride event on June 30.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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