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See you at the lights…

The ‘Amplepärchen’- The light couples

As you wander the streets of Vienna you may notice that some of the lights at the pedestrian crossings are somewhat different. Instead of displaying the traditional red and green man, dotted through the city are lights displaying couples, both homo- and heterosexual.

While they may well make a great add on to your Insta-story, there is more to them than a simple gimmick for tourists and locals to ‘gram’. However, fear not, for we are here to enlighten you on their story.

The History

To begin at the beginning, we must go back to the 2014 instalment of the Eurovision Song Contest. This European (and some extras) wide singing competition pits representatives from each country against a public vote, resulting in an eventual favourite as voted for by the whole of Europe. While sometimes the votes can get a little political (strangely the UK entry came last this year, cannot imagine why), the winner is normally 100% down to talent and song quality. The winners’s country is then the host of the competition.

In 2014, the eventual winner was Austrias now famous ‘bearded lady’ Conchita Wurst, with the song ‘Rise like a Phoenix’, meaning that Vienna would be the 2015. In honour of Conchita’s achievement and message, the city decided to take the lead of a few German cities who had already introduced different genders to their traffic lights systems. Vienna however decided to go one better and really show Conchita’s message of acceptance, diversity and equality by introducing the couples of all sexual orientations.

But that was a while ago…

Correct, it was a while ago. The 50 lights were indeed originally be a temporary thing, only meant to be in place until June, when the Eurovision and the Life Ball, a yearly ball held in Vienna raising HIV awareness were over. However, unlike a lot of Eurovision, their message stayed relevant and popular. Much like Conchita, who continues to be at the forefront of gay rights in Austria and around the world, because of this the city of Vienna decided to keep the lights, as a beacon for what is right.

On top of the great feedback for promoting a fantastic message, they were popular with the locals and traffic officials in Vienna have discovered that the lights have also improved road safety, with more pedestrians stopping at the Amplepärchen lights than at the normal ones. So they are saving lives and promoting equality. Double win.

Critics and cynics may say they were too costly, that people only stop to take a picture not out of road safety concerns, that Vienna only did it as a gimmick to compete with Berlin’s ‘Amplemann’. But we care not, as the ‘Amplepärchen’ are here to stay as a constant reminder of tolerance and acceptance to such people and we could not be happier.

Here’s Conchita to sing us out.

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