Traffic Signals from Around the World

As roads started to become inundated with pedestrians, bicycles, motor vehicle and trams, it became clear that a system was necessary to determine right of way and avoid collision. The first electric traffic signal (pictured below) was erected on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, 102 years ago, in August 1914. It consisted of a pair of green and red lights, and a buzzer which would sound to signal the change of colour; the yellow light was only added in 1920. Human operators controlled the lights from a booth at the side of the intersection.


Fast forward to today, traffic lights are integral to any road systems. Different parts of the world, however, have taken some liberties with the design, to reflect their cultures and history. Here are some of the interesting traffic/pedestrian lights found around the world:-

Pegasus crossings, or simply traffic lights for those of the equine species, can be found in places like London’s Hyde Park and Wimbledon. There are usually two panels: one at pedestrian eye level and the other higher up for mounted riders.

The Ampelmann originated in East German and disappeared after reunification. The unoriginal silhouette that replaced him didn’t delight the citizens as much as this jaunty character, and he made a return in 1997.

In some places, the Ampelmann has an Ampelwoman as companion. The town of Zwickau introduced the green lady in 2004 to promote gender equality.

Other cities have also used traffic lights to promote social equality, like these in Munich that depict same-sex couples.

In Odense, Denmark, where Hans Christian Anderson was born, some traffic lights feature a walking figure of the prolific author.

In the narrowest lane in Prague, Czech Republic, a traffic light prevents pedestrians coming from different directions at the same time – the lane is so narrow that two people cannot pass at the same time. Apparently there was an incident in which a heftier German tourist got stuck and had to be soaped up so that she could slide out.

In Fredericia, Denmark, traffic lights pay tribute to the soldiers in the Battle of Fredericia, between Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark, in 1849. The battle wounded and killed 1,781 Danes before they emerged victorious.

Miffy is a popular character in a series of picture books by Dutch artist, Dick Bruna. 85 million copies of these books have been sold. In Utrecht, where Bruna was born, Miffy appears on traffic lights along Lange Vliestraat.

From the thirties till the sixties, this rotary traffic signal controlled traffic in Melbourne, Australia. It was called the Marshalite, after its inventor, Charles Marshall. This example is exhibited in Museum Victoria.

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