Vienna's pedestrian crossing lights show gay, lesbian and straight couples

Signal of change / Vienna's pedestrian crossing lights show gay, lesbian and straight couples

By Laura Picot / 18 May 2015

Vienna has installed pedestrian crossing lights at 47 crossings depicting gay, lesbian and straight couples holding hands and with love hearts above them, instead of the traditional lone figure.

The move is aimed at "setting a signal for openness and tolerance", Deputy Mayor and head of city traffic issues Maria Vassilakou explained in a statement, as well as focusing on raising awareness for traffic safety.

The campaign forms part of the preparations for a series of upcoming events that are linked to tolerance, including the AIDS charity Lifeball, Europe’s biggest charity event for AIDS and HIV research, and the Eurovision Song Contest, which cross-dressing Austrian singer Conchita Wurst won last year.

The lights will remain until the end of June, during which time research will be conducted whilst the project runs to see if traffic safety is improved.

Image caption: Vienna's lesbian and gay scene in new lights

Image credit: Michael Pollack / Flickr

So what?

Many Viennese pedestrians have supported the concept. “I think this is a great idea,” said resident Clemens Bendtner. “The topic of equality and equal treatment is a very important issue, and it is getting some attention through the campaign.” However, the project has also received criticism. Toni Mahdalik of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria called the initiative gender politics "gone mad".

Visibility is an important route to mainstream recognition and equality for marginalised groups. Will this campaign demonstrate the potential of street signs to influence mindsets? Vienna is seen as a leader for gender mainstreaming in urban planning. If the campaign is successful, which other cities will follow? Might we also see street signs reflecting linguistic and racial diversity?

Sources

BBC (2015, May 12) Vienna brings in gay pedestrian crossing lights

The Guardian (2015, May 13) Vienna’s gay, straight and lesbian crossing lights show all walks of life

NBC (2015, May 12) Eurovision song contest host Vienna launches gay-themed traffic lights

 

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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