The Austrian capital, Vienna, wants to increase both road safety and promote tolerance with an unlikely idea: It has replaced dozens of the city's gender-neutral traffic light figures with same-sex couples. If the couples shine in red, pedestrians are supposed to stop, whereas they're good to go if the couple blinks in green.

City officials said they hoped the new traffic lights would improve road safety by attracting "the attention of drivers and pedestrians," Reuters quoted a city spokesperson as saying. Officials also intend the same-sex traffic lights to portray Vienna as a tolerant city ahead of the annual Eurovision Song Contest, which will be held in the Austrian capital this year, according to Reuters.

The idea is only the latest European political initiative involving traffic lights. Last year, the undeniable preponderance of male figures in traffic lights in the western German city of Dortmund caused a controversy, as WorldViews reported back then. Some politicians of the Green and Social Democratic parties urged the municipality to pursue gender equality among their traffic lights.


A traffic light, designed as female counterpart to the former East German "Ampelmaennchen" (little trafficlight man), is seen in Sonthofen, southwestern Germany, on March 11, 2013. (KARL-JOSEF HILDENBRAND/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite an increasing awareness for traffic light equality, female figures continue to be outnumbered by male ones in Germany.

As in Vienna, German proponents of female traffic lights have also cited scientific reasons despite their political objectives. "One advantage of the 'traffic light woman' would be the enlargement of the illuminated area," the Green and Social Democrats argued in their statement back then.

The German daily newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung proposed a compromise on Facebook — the introduction of 'traffic light couples.' Such couples would furthermore double the size of the illuminated area in traffic lights and make it easier for pedestrians to see them.

Although that was supposed to be a joke, Vienna has now made it reality.

See also:

German politicians want to make traffic lights look more like women