A traffic light to bring order | + History

Germany is about to have a new government. It will be formed by a three-party alliance called “semaphore coalition”, by their colors. If the metaphor is so easy to understand it is because there are traffic lights everywhere.

If there are no last minute surprises, this weekend the Social Democratic Party, the Liberals and the Greens of Germany, They will ratify the government agreement that will allow to choose as a new chancellor Olaf Scholz, which in this way will become the successor of Angela Merkel.

As the corporate colors of these three formations are the red, the yellow and the green, as soon as the negotiations started The nickname “semaphore coalition & rdquor; to visually define this particular tripartite alliance. The analogy works because everyone understands it. And is that the traffic light is a universal symbol that precisely one month of December began to exist.

London traffic in 1868 was insane. And that the automobile had not yet been invented, but the streets were a chaotic coming and going of cars and carriages without order or concert. To try to remedy it, in December of that year the city authorities came up with install luminous signs in the streets near the Houses of Parliament. When they were red, you had to stop and with green you could continue. The system had been designed by the railway engineer and superintendent of the South Eastern Railway, John Peake Knight, based on how it was regulated the circulation of trains. The problem was that the lights on that traffic light were gas powered and had to be operated manually. The mechanism was not sufficiently safe and, on occasions, this caused deflagrations to occur that caused injuries to the agent in charge of the operation of the device. As a result of its dangerousness, it ended up discarding its implantation in more parts of London.

Everything changed with the arrival of electricity. Both in Paris like in Salt Lake City, in 1912, they tested traffic lights from rudimentary mechanisms. Now, what really succeeded was the traffic light that was installed in Cleveland, specifically at the corner of Avenida Euclides and Calle 105.

In the United States, combustion cars began to proliferate in a massive way, in large part because Ford was flooding the market with affordable models for many pockets. It started the reign of the car in the US (which still persists). Those vehicles became the gravitational center of the urban and territorial organization of large cities and their surroundings.

The unstoppable growth in the number of cars translated into increased traffic and traffic problems appeared everywhere. This explains why there were many North American cities that, starting in the 1910s, worked intensely to try to find an efficient system that would help regulate traffic. And no wonder it was in Detroit -the motor capital of the USA- where in 1920 the three-color traffic light appeared.

Until then they only worked with red and green, but a police officer named William Potts he realized that the change was too abrupt and this caused some accidents. It occurred to him that it would be good to be able to warn drivers that they should stop shortly, and so he added a third color: orange. The proposal was successful and progressively was incorporated throughout the world. Currently at the traffic lights of some countries, such as Switzerland, the caution color is also activated when it is about to change from red to green, so that vehicles prepare to resume driving.

In Barcelona, ​​the first traffic light was installed at the intersection between Balmes and Provença streets in 1929. It is no coincidence that it was that year. It was just the moment when the city welcomed the International Exhibition And, as we already explained in the article dedicated to explaining why lights are put on during the Christmas holidays, in those days Barcelona was experiencing a real fever for everything related to electricity, which was the most advanced energy that existed then.

A century later, although with many improvements, the traffic lights continue to exert their function and no matter how angry it may turn red in front of our noses, Admittedly, they make life much easier for us.

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Citizen protests

In Germany, traffic lights have a particular history. As a result of reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they initially wanted to replace the unique models that existed in the GDR. This sparked protests from the citizenry and sparked the interest of the whole country, to the point that the Ampelmännchen have been adopted in the western part.


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