Vienna traffic signals go red and green, gay and straight

Austria Same Gender Street Lights

VIENNA (AP) — Some Vienna pedestrian traffic lights are suddenly not only red or green. They’re also gay or straight.

And Austria’s right-wing Freedom Party is livid.

Over the past few days, the city started setting up lights at pedestrian crossings that show pairs of figures instead of the usual stick men. Some depict a man and a woman. Others, two women. Still others, two men. All couples are complete with hearts.

The lights are being erected at 47 crossings and will stay up until June. Vienna hosts several events linked to tolerance during that time, including the Life Ball, Europe’s biggest charity event for AIDS and HIV research, and the Eurovision Song Contest, won last year by Austrian cross-dressing pop star Conchita Wurst.

Pedestrians were neutral to positive when asked Tuesday whether they liked the concept.

“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 not all Austrians are amused. The Freedom Party has announced it is lodging a criminal complaint against Vienna Councilwoman Maria Vassilakou, who is in charge of traffic issues in the city.

Party officials say the lights contravene traffic regulations and are a waste of taxpayers’ money at a cost of 63,000 euros ($70,000).

The city in turn says that the lights conform to laws — and are meant not only to show tolerance. Municipal officials say they also hope the signals will draw more attention from pedestrians and reduce jay-walking.

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