Rainbow Roads

Since 2018, a significant number of London’s Local Authorities has painted their roads in Rainbows.   

No, it is not the first step on the way the merry old land of Oz and No it’s not for the NHS, they are in celebration of the LGBTQ+ Community.

Rainbow Crossings have been installed by local authorities during (though not exclusively) June, which is Pride Month, a month dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. But most of the crossings have gone onto be a permanent fixture on the capital’s roads all year round. 

As the sun set on the forgotten Pride season of 2020 The London LGBT Forums Network has spent the last few months researching how many of the 32 London Boroughs have got on board with this new trend and created a timeline of when they were installed. 

We have found that since 2018:

  • 15 London Boroughs have installed rainbow crossings 
  • 10 of those Local Authorities are Labour, 3 are Liberal Democrats and 2 are Conservative (The Westminster crossing laid in 2019 was done in partnership with the Mayor of London)
  • 11 are a permanent fixture in the borough
  • 4 were temporary as part of either Pride Month or Pride in London

However, London’s first Rainbow crossing arrived back in 2014 and was not installed by a local authority but by TFL. Former Chair of TFL’s Staff Network, Martyn Loukes, was behind the first ever rainbow crossing initiative in the capital when TFL laid a temporary rainbow crossing for Pride in London and again in December 2014 (by the Charing Cross Road Tube entrance on Trafalgar Square, near Nelson’s Column ) to mark the legalisation of same sex marriage.

TFL also teamed up with Stonewall in September 2014 by laying a crossing outside of Arsenal Underground station in support of their ‘Rainbow Laces’ campaign. After the boom of 2014, it would be 4 years until another Rainbow Crossing would appear in London again.

The junction of Pall Mall East and Suffolk Street (28th June 2014)

Arsenal Underground Station (11th September 2014 )

Charing Cross Road entrance on Trafalgar Square, near Nelson’s Column. (10th December 2014)

TFL would also go on to deliver the countries first same sex traffic light filters (by Trafalgar Square along from legendary LGBT Cabaret venue, Halfway to Heaven) which appeared in support of Pride In London 2016 with the Mayor for London and are still there today.

In June 2018, the first Borough to install a Rainbow Crossing was not Westminster, not Lambeth but Newham. This was a joint venture between Newham Council and Forest Gayte Pride, one of London’s leading borough Pride events.  

“The community went mad when they saw it!  It was the talk of the town for a long time after that.  It was a shame that it could not stay permanently.  It had something to do with local bylaws and markings on the road.  Anyway, we have managed to have it in 2019 as well.  This year, because of Covid-19 we had to put Forest Gayte pride on Hiatus, but we hope to be back in 2021!” 

(Rob DesRoches – Co-Director Forest Gayte Pride) 

Forest Gayte Pride (June 2018)

Forest Gayte Pride (June 2019)

In 2019, London started to see several Rainbow Crossings appear in 7 boroughs across the capital. The first to be installed (again during Pride Month) was in Merton on June 5th 2019 which was also London’s first permanent Rainbow crossing located opposite the borough’s LGBTQ venue ‘CMYK’. 

Bar CMYK, The Broadway, Wimbledon, (June 5th 2019)

This was quickly followed on June 17th by Greenwich who installed 3 temporary crossings at the Junction of Thomas Street and Wellington Street.

Hackney had two crossings (June 24th) on East Road and the other, on the border between Hackney and Tower Hamlets on Hackney Road. This would coincide with Pride in London and UK Black Pride which was held in Haggerston Park. 

As part of their Borough of Culture 2019 celebrations, Waltham Forest installed a permanent rainbow crossing on July 5th in time for Pride in London and went one step further by having London’s first LGBT Bus shelter which was installed on June 24th. This was led by Rainbow Crossing veteran, Martyn Loukes. 

The first LGBT Bus Shelter – Leyton Mills (June 24th 2019)

Westminster also installed their temporary crossing in time for Pride in London 2019 with thanks to the Mayor of London in partnership with Westminster Council on Regent Street. 

Lambeth, who incorrectly claimed to be the first permanent Rainbow crossing in the U, K, laid two crossings on August 16th at the site of the UKs first LGBT centre on Railton Road opposite Brockwell Park. Still, It was done on Madonna’s birthday and that in itself deserves a honourable mention. 

Before COVID-19 came to town, The new Borough of Culture Brent started 2020 by installing their permanent crossing outside the Brent Civic Centre on January 16th. A total of 6 roads had been planned but due to the pandemic the plans have been put on hold. 

In February 2020, Haringey, became the first London borough to have a crossing outside of a school as part of LGBT History Month. Which was met with over 200 abusive messages on social media. Despite the trolls, Haringey went ahead and installed another road on Wood Green High Road (outside the VUE Cinema). Both are permanent additions in the borough.

Woodside High School Centre (February 5th 2020)

Centre of Wood Green (February 13th 2020)

With no Borough Prides or the Pride in London festival this year, several London boroughs went ahead with plans to install permanent Rainbow Crossings to lift community spirits following months of lockdown anxiety. 

Wandsworth led the Post COVID charge back in May by laying the crossing on Lavender Hill outside of the Battersea Arts Centre. 

The Pride Season boom followed on June 15th with Greenwich installing a record 7 Rainbow Crossings at different sites across the borough. Which is the greatest number of crossings in a London borough to date.

Sutton had their crossing installed in a prominent town centre location at the junction of St.Nicholas Way and Hill Road on June 25th. Kingston was also installed on the same day at ‘Eden Street’ and has quickly become a local landmark. 

2 Days later on Saturday 27 June Camden installed 4 crossings on Camden High Street at the junction of Jamestown Road and Hawley Crescent. 

The last Crossing from our research was in the borough of Richmond who installed 2 crossings, one outside Richmond Station and the other on King Street in Twickenham.

All the 2020 crossings laid are permanent fixtures except for the Royal Borough of Greenwich, although we understand at the time of writing this that their crossings still are in place.

Outside Richmond Train Station (July 21st 2020)

Since this article was written in November 2020, the only addition in 2021 has been over in Sutton in which Sutton Council in partnership with the Sutton LGBT Forum launched the U.K’s first Trans pedestrian crossing. 
The crossing was installed in Sutton Town Centre and launched on May 17th 2021 to coincide with IDAHOBIT (Interntional Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia).
And that, as of June 30th 2021, are London’s Rainbow & Trans Crossings.