Rainbow zebra crossing in Berchem

The Antwerp district of Berchem – where I grew up – has now its own rainbow zebra crossing. I noticed it recently, walking in the Grotesteenweg (Great Causeway or Grande Chaussée), also known as the N1, at the crossing with the Driekoningenstraat (Magi Street) and Berchem District Hall

As far as I know, there are currently rainbow crossings in the district of Antwerp and in Borgerhout. Borgerhout is a recent addition, with a rainbow zebra near Borgerhout Town Hall

Rainbow zebra crossings are usually an item around the 17th of May, the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT or IDAHOT, as it is more commonly known in Belgium).

Street ownership

Since 2021, municipalities in Flanders can ask the regional government for a rainbow zebra crossing. Sixty municipalities have already applied for such a crossing, including twelve in the province of Antwerp.

Why ask the Flemish Government? Its a question of ownerships. Some streets are owned by cities and communes, other by the provinces. And others by the region, in casu Flanders. 

The twelve are and were: 

  • Beerse on the N132;
  • Wuustwezel on the N1;
  • Lille on the N153*;
  • Heist-Op-Den-Berg on the N15;
  • Zwijndrecht on the N70;
  • Brasschaat on the N1;
  • Mortsel on the N10;
  • Boom on the N177;
  • Hoboken on the N148;
  • Deurne on the N12;
  • Merksem on the N148;
  • Berchem on the N1.

* Note that this Lille is not the Lille (Rijsel) in France

Berchem

The Berchem rainbow zebra crossing is different to others. Instead of painting the rainbow flag colours in between the compulsory white stripes, the colours are painted around.

Berchem rainbow zebra crossing.

N1

The N1 is a national route that connects Brussels with Antwerp and the border with the Netherlands near Wuustwezel. The total length of the N1 is 73 km.

Other rainbow zebras in Antwerp

Where can you find the other rainbow zebra crossings? 

At Het Roze Huis or The Pink House. Located at the Draakplaats (Dragon Square) in the Zurenborg neighbourhood. Het Roze Huis is Antwerp’s LGBTQI umbrella organisation. Queer bookshop Kartonnen Dozen is located nearby.

Rainbow zebra crossing at Het Roze Huis.

At the intersection of Nationalestraat and Kammenstraat in the shopping and fashion museum area of town.

Rainbow zebra crossing at Nationalestraat and Kammenstraat.

At the Suikerrui and Scheldt Quays. A very visible spot in Antwerp, where many tourists come and Antwerp Pride parades. 

Rainbow zebra crossing at Suikkerui and Scheldt Quays.

In front of Que Pasa. The now closed gay, drag and trans bar at the corner of the Minderbroedersrui and Lange Koepoortstraat symbolizes the queer going out scene. 

Rainbow zebra crossing at Que Pasa (in 2018).

What are rainbow crossings anyway?

Since Gilbert Baker (1951 – 2017) designed the rainbow flag as a symbol for gay, queer, LGBTQI pride in 1978, the rainbow has been a rallying symbol for the LGBTQI community. 

In 2012, the first rainbow crosswalk was painted in West Hollywood, Los Angelesgayborhood. Tel Aviv in Israel and Sydney in Australia followed. 

Since then, many countries and cities have painted rainbow crossings. They’re quite popular in Belgium and the Netherlands.

As a zebra must contain white stripes in Belgium, the rainbow colours are painted around the white stripes.

Rainbow crossing.

Pro and con

In Belgium, the visibility of LGBTQI people is widely accepted, so usually there’s little to no resistance. Infamously, Aalst (Alost) did resist in May

They’re are always people who don’t like visibility of LGBTQI people and issues. When it comes to the zebras, they then claim they’re unsafe.

But also within the rainbow not everyone is a fan. Painting zebra crossings is only symbolic. They don’t say anything of an actual LGBTQI inclusive policy of the (local) government. They can be seen as tokenism. 

That is true, but visibility is also important for acceptance and inclusivity. 

Where will the next rainbow zebra crossing in Antwerp be?

Queer Antwerp

Antwerp Pride 2022 & Antwerp Queer Arts Festival 2022

Darklands 2022-2023

On the look of Antwerp

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