Rainbow signals

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The annual Pride event in London, with its associated rally, has had official support from the London Assembly and the Mayor's office for years, and when it takes place streets are closed and a stage is erected in Trafalgar Square for thousands to gather, celebrate and raise the profile of LGBT issues.

Support comes in many forms, and in the past Transport for London has marked the event by running an open-top bus in the parade and flying a rainbow flag over its headquarters. In June 2016, TfL went a step further and did something highly unusual: they swapped the "green man" pedestrian signals at traffic lights all around Trafalgar Square for a series of LGBT symbols. The work was done for free by TfL's signals contractor Siemens.

Whatever your view on this unusual show of support, the result are several dozen traffic signals that are completely unique. CBRD took a trip to Trafalgar Square to see them during the temporary installation.

Click a photo to see a larger version.

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Trafalgar Square, at the heart of Central London, and venue for all sorts of rallies, gatherings and protests. It looks peaceful here, but just a couple of days before this space was filled by the annual Pride London event.

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At the north-east corner of the square, one of the many traffic signals shows a red man. But what's not obvious, at least until the lights change, is that his partner the green man is temporarily gone.

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In place of the green man is a new symbol — two women, hand in hand, with a heart between them.

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All the green man signals around Trafalgar Square have been changed, and the new versions are used almost randomly. These signals, on a crossing at the roundabout to the south side of the square, have two men holding hands, again with a heart between them. The two men are both versions of the normal green man symbol.

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The symbols showing couples hand in hand are completed with a third version, showing a man and a woman together, again with a heart between them. The figure of the woman appears to be an adapted version of the girl from the "children crossing" warning sign.

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Up close, the new symbols are formed using a stencil placed in front of the green light lens, just like the normal symbols. Fitting them, and removing them again, is as simple as swapping the black stencil and doesn't require modifications to the signals themselves. The results aren't perfect but are clear enough to make out the figures of men and women and the shape of the heart.

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The west and south sides of the square are mostly home to the couples, but here on the east side, at the junction of the Strand, four different symbols are more prevalent. None of the signals feature changes to the red man, though — its purpose is far more safety-critical and it's unlikely anybody at TfL would have agreed to change it.

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When the lights change, these signals have gender symbols on. Two "venus" symbols are interlinked, in a form that's often used as a shorthand to represent lesbianism.

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Elsewhere on the same traffic island, two "mars" symbols are linked in the same way to represent gay men.

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Nearby, two opposite symbols are linked, which could be interpreted as a representation of heterosexual couples, but has often been used as a symbol of gay liberation.

While the pictures of couples are similar to a green man, these symbols are decidedly different, but nobody crossing the road seemed to suffer any confusion — if anything, the only effect was that many tourists were, unusually, taking pictures of the traffic lights instead of the monuments in the square.

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There are seven symbols in the series, and this is the last one: a combination of mars and venus symbols that is often used to represent non-binary and transgender people.