Rainbow flags were sprouting around Oxford Street’s Taylor Square on Thursday in lamentation of a rare patch of Sydney colour that was not long for this world.
Recriminations are continuing following the late-night destruction of the rainbow crossing on Wednesday, set up to mark 35 years of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, but which was given a shelf life of only one month.
The fallout has sharpened an already hostile relationship between the City of Sydney council and the O’Farrell government.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said it was ”mean and miserable” of the state government to ”come like a thief in the night to remove this crossing that had had such amazing support from the community”.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay has insisted all along that his determination to remove the crossing after a month, as was originally agreed with the council, was only about safety concerns.
In this, he was supported by road safety experts, who agreed crossing markings in anything other than white on black bitumen could be confusing.
”The last thing you want to do is have a driver confused and they run over a pedestrian,” the chairwoman of road safety at UNSW’s injury risk management research centre, Raphael Grzebieta, said. ”The rainbow crossing is not compliant with road design guidelines.”
Soames Job, a former head of the RTA’s Centre for Road Safety, said there was a lot of research showing road markings should be limited to white. ”I think the minister’s right,” he said.
But on the street and in social media, many found the insistence on spending $30,000 to rip up the rainbow unnecessary wowserism.
Seen as a symbol of Sydney’s inclusiveness and an attraction to draw tourists to Oxford Street, the rainbow’s end was lamented by many on Twitter and Facebook as a golden opportunity wasted.
Reigning Sydney Mr Leather, Richard Savvy, took the sentiment to the street on Thursday, encouraging people on Facebook to ”fill Taylor Square with a lot of rainbow” by planting flags around the site of the former crossing in the 24 hours after its removal.
About 40 rainbow flags were in place by Thursday afternoon.
”It’s more of a memorial for the loss of it than a protest or anything like that,” Mr Savvy said. ”
The executive director of the Sydney Business Chamber, Patricia Forsythe, said the government had little choice but to remove it if it had safety concerns.
An NRMA spokesman said it wanted Mr Gay and Cr Moore to work together to find a new site for the crossing ”where it’s a bit safer but still has the same attraction”.
Jacob Saulwick, Leesha McKenny