Search This Blog



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Crosswalks to Bear in Northampton, Massachusetts

Path of Pride

A red, white, and blue crosswalk will not grace Northampton, Massachusetts’ main street on July 4th.  Northampton, in fact, is a town in search of an approval process for such an initiative. Veteran’s Day seems like a more reasonable goal, observed board of public works chairman Terry Culhane during a June 25th hearing on the matter.

The tricolor proposal by Northampton resident Katherine Osborne followed two months after the town’s rollout of the rainbow crosswalk pictured above, just in time for the city’s annual Pride Parade on May 3rd. The crosswalk and the rainbow flag that it emulates, of course, are iconic symbols of the gay community, which helps give Northampton its Je ne sais quoi.  I prefer to view the symbol expansively to include once prideful heterosexuals like myself as well.
In any event, Northampton’s Bureau of Public Works gave the rainbow crosswalk fast-lane approval, the mayor and the city council president got on board, and the crosswalk’s chief advocate, Northamptonite Melinda Shaw, raised $1,700 to get it painted. Now apparently a permanent fixture, it debuted tutti frutti for the parade.

Still, some Northamptonites had misgivings. Had pride advocates received special treatment? Did the approval process lack sufficient procedural due diligence?  Stung by such consternation, members of the public works board confessed to having opened a Pandora’s Box. In that uncertain climate, Katherine Osborne’s patriotic crosswalk proposal was not the recipient of fast-track treatment. Instead, it awaits unresolved ground rules that may include aesthetic and other input from the City Council or the Arts Council.  

Pedestrian safety in disappearing ink

Vanilla Fudge. Meanwhile, a traditional vanilla crosswalk (see above) 200 feet up the street at a heavily traveled intersection continues to receive city government shunning a la Rodney Dangerfield. Northampton’s “disappearing ink” crosswalk may be the town’s longest crossing. It is undoubtedly among its most spectral. Pedestrians hit the street late because the cross light has no audio. And many seniors and others less than fleet of foot get stressed out in midstream when the light begins to switch over. The enterprise is an accident in waiting.

You’d think that Northampton’s burghers would be self-conscious given the cautionary reminder pictured below. It, in fact,  is easier to discern from the disappearing ink crosswalk than the d.i.c itself. It's a second crosswalk bordered by phosphorescent barrels topped with amber beacons resembling oversized pinball bumpers.  The town rolled them out in November of 2012, after Pallav Parakh, a physician, was run down by a 25-year-old in a pickup truck.
Northampton gets its priorities straight. . . via the rearview mirror.
Coda: Residents of Northampton and nearby Amherst take pleasure in ridiculing one another's  loopiness.  In the interest of balance, here’s a July 4th sendoff from a card-carrying Amherstite that will gratify Northamptonites. Her letter is apparently an annual 4th of July message to readers of The Daily Hampshire Gazette:

No comments: