Newstalk
Newstalk

12.35 13 May 2015


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People waiting to cross the road in the Austrian capital of Vienna now bide their time until straight, gay, and lesbian couples turn green before taking the first step. The city has introduced the new traffic light as part of a host of events connected to the theme of tolerance and bridge building – including the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, which was won last year the bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst.

Viennese traffic lights at 47 crossing points dotted around the city now display pairs of stick figures with love hearts, instead of the lone male that features most commonly around the world. The new lights will remain in place until the end of June, a period during which Vienna will play host to the annual Life Ball, a glitzy fundraiser for AIDS and HIV rsearch.

Eurovision-winner Conchita Wurst recreates an iconic painting by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt for the Life Ball

When asked, Vienna’s pedestrians proved to be positive or largely indifferent to the change.

“I think this is a great idea,” said Clemens Bendtner. “The topic of equality and equal treatment is a very important issue, and it is getting some attention through the campaign.”

But Austria’s ultra conservative Freedom Party has lodged a criminal complaint against the Viennese council member who is charged with taking care of the city’s traffic infrastructure. The party claims that the newly designed lights break health and safety laws, contravene traffic regulations, and, at a cost of €63,000, are a total waste of public funds in the recession-hit central-European nation.

In response, councillor Maria Vassilakou has said that the lights meet all safety standards, and that the new designs improve visibility and could reduce jaywalking incidents across the city.


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