No one can ever accuse the city of Vienna of being behind the times. The Austrian capital is so forward-looking that it has replaced many of the walk/don’t walk pedestrian signals at crosswalks with stick-figure renderings of gay and lesbian couples holding hands or walking arm-in-arm.
The move might seem at first like a solution to a problem that didn’t exist — conventional pedestrian traffic signals don’t show couples at all, hetero or otherwise — but the real reason for the change is to demonstrate Vienna’s tolerance ahead of the HIV/AIDS charity Life Ball event on May 16 and Rainbow Parade in June.
There is also a practical reason, according to the wire service Agence France Presse (via Yahoo News):
The installations are also part of a scientific experiment aimed at raising traffic awareness.
Local authorities said the signals had been replaced at junctions where people traditionally ignore the red lights, and want to test whether the new interfaces can change the public’s behaviour.
It’s not immediately obvious how having same-sex representations will increase awareness of the signs, but if it works, who am I to quibble?
As experiments in promoting pedestrian safety go, the idea doesn’t strike me as nearly as dumb as one implemented in New York City in 2011 that sought to raise consciousness through haiku (“Too averse to risk/To chance the lottery, yet/Steps into traffic” read one of 200 poetic messages posted throughout the city).
The AFP report notes that Vienna’s gay signal campaign has its detractors. One is Toni Mahdalik, of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria, who is quoted as calling the initiative gender politics “gone mad,” suggesting that the money could have been put to better use by reducing poverty or unemployment.
(h/t Weasel Zippers)
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