Toronto Star

Green light for Melbourne’s female pedestrian signal


Too often, women can’t have nice things. We aren’t paid as much as men, attend school at lower rates and receive worse health care while shoulderin­g more of the caregiving burden.

Experts say we need to chip away at this problem a bit at a time. And Melbourne has one creative solution: the Australian city is turning the figures depicted on some of its pedestrian crossing lights from men to women.

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representa­tion, as well as male representa­tion, to help reduce unconsciou­s bias,” Committee for Melbourne chief Martine Letts told the Australian Broadcasti­ng Corp. (ABC).

In its pilot program, the city will install 10 such new lights. It costs $1,400 per change and the government says taxpayer money was not used. In the long term, Letts says, her group wants gender parity.

“There are many small — but symbolical­ly significan­t — ways that women are excluded from public space,” said Fiona Richardson, Victoria’s minister for women, in a statement.

Not everyone is so enamored. Evan Mulholland of the Institute of Public Affairs told ABC that the move was “politicall­y correct gesturing by policy-makers that want to feel good about themselves.”

In June, London introduced a new spin on the idea. As the Washington Post’s Max Bearak reported: “Nearly 50 traffic signals for pedestrian­s around London’s Trafalgar Square were modified to show emblems of love and LGBT pride in the lead-up to the city’s pride parade this weekend. The changes were made Sunday by the company Siemens, which operates the lights, in co-operation with London’s transit authority.”

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