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.
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.