Melbourne's trial of new, female themed, pedestrian lights kicks-off prior to proposed widespread expansion.
Committee for Melbourne
Pedestrian traffic lights which depict a female wearing a dress have been installed in Melbourne, Australia, to promote gender equality, The Herald Sun reported. The Committee for Melbourne – a body that brings together the business, academic and community sectors to try to create “a better” city – proposed the new format.
Chief Executive, Martine Letts, explained: "The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias. Unconscious bias reinforces stereotypes and influences daily decisions”, she argued.
Location and funding
The Equal Crossing initiative incorporates a handful of female orientated traffic lights. They have been installed at a junction between Swanston Street and Flinders Street for a twelve month, trial, period. Funding came via The Committee for Melbourne and Camlex Electrical – a local company – rather than public tax money.
"The aim is to move towards one-to-one, male and female, representation across the state of Victoria", Martine Letts continued. She did, however, stop short of proposing that work starts immediately citing financial constraints. “It will cost $8400 to replace a basic intersection of six lights”, she revealed.
Governor backs female themed traffic lights
Victorian Governor, Linda Dessau, recognised that the concept is controversial but backed it. She explained: "Some people have expressed a little scepticism wondering whether it's gesture politics, rather than having any real substance.” She continued:
“But these symbols are a practical and meaningful way to demonstrate that, in fact, fifty percent of our population is female and should therefore also be represented at traffic lights."
Minister praises “symbolically significant” initiative
Minister for Women, Fiona Richardson, added: "There are many small but symbolically significant ways that women are excluded from public space. A culture of sexism is made up of very small issues (such as) how the default pedestrian crossings use a male figure — and large issues such as the rate of family violence facing women."
Lord Mayor predicts “derision”
Melbourne Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle, seemed less convinced by the initiative. He told the Herald Sun: “I’m all for doing anything we can for gender equality, but really? Unfortunately, I think this sort of costly exercise is more likely to bring derision.”
Think Tank criticises “politically correct gesturing”
Evan Mulholland, of the Institute of Public Affairs Think Tank, labelled the move: "Politically correct gesturing by policy makers that want to feel good about themselves", ABC reported. He claimed:
“Ordinary Victorians are concerned about job security, rising crime and transport infrastructure. If this is what our politicians, bureaucrats and policy makers think is the biggest issue facing road users then, perhaps, it goes a long way to understanding why we are stuck in traffic everyday.”