AUBURN — A majority of city councilors said Tuesday they have no appetite for hot dogs, eating utensils or rainbows on the city’s crosswalks.

“The thing we need to think about is the liability,” Councilor Andy Titus said. “There could be a situation where a city might be liable for something that happens in a crosswalk that’s not set up correctly, according to state standards.”

Public Services Director Dan Goyette said Auburn had received three requests to liven up city crosswalks with colors and designs — one by Auburn Mayor Jonathan LaBonte to repaint an intersection in an LGBT-friendly rainbow, another to put white-painted eating utensils across New Auburn’s Second Street near Rolly’s Diner and a crossing in blue and white by the Police Department to honor police.

A rainbow flag is a symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender movement. 

Goyette said he’s not a fan of the idea, but he would do what councilors wanted.

“I’m not going to make that decision as a licensed professional,” he said. “I don’t want that responsibility.”

Councilors discussed the matter in a workshop and left it hanging, choosing to not put it on a future meeting agenda. A 4-3 majority said they didn’t like the idea.

“It opens a Pandora’s box,” Councilor Robert Stone said. “I feel we will be inundated with requests and I like the standards set forth by the highway administration. We can show diversity in other ways.”

Councilor David Young said he was worried that color blind drivers would be unable to recognize the creative crosswalks.

“People may be used to recognizing normal signs, but adding color may make it very distracting,” Young said. “I think it becomes an attractive nuisance.”

But New Auburn resident Joe Gray criticized councilors for disregarding the idea.

“Thousands of crosswalks like this exist in the United States, so the rules can be maneuvered a little bit,” Gray said. “Creative crosswalks are not less safe.”

Lewiston city councilors approved stenciled white hot dogs for the intersection in front of Simones’ Hot Dog Stand in May. Local artists drew up and cut out a wooden stencil and Lewiston Public Works crews used the stencils to paint the crosswalk in June.

Auburn Councilor Jim Pross said he liked the idea as a way to add some personality.

“I think there are ways to mitigate safety concerns,” Pross said. “I believe that being bold and setting yourself out in some ways, doing something different on a small scale — those are the things that can create a buzz and help draw attention to what you are doing as a community.”

Goyette said state and federal traffic policy leans away from anything but plain, white crosswalks. Anything else could distract drivers, leading to an accident.

“Crosswalks are meant to alert the drivers that this is the point where people will cross,” Goyette said. “It’s not supposed to distract the driver, but that’s exactly what these kinds of crosswalks are meant to do. They are meant to draw your eye down so you say, ‘Hey, look, it’s a rainbow. Hey, look, it’s utensils or hot dogs or whatever you want to do.’ That’s exactly what you don’t want to do for drivers.”

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