Not So Pedestrian Crossings in Berlin

Who knew that pedestrian crossing lights do not have to be so, well, pedestrian?

The pedestrian crossing lights in Berlin are really special. Called Ampel Men, their design are a holdover from East German Berlin.   

In 1961, traffic psychologist (now that’s specialised!), Karl Peglau, designed these signals to combat the growing number of pedestrian accidents in East Berlin.

People really liked the Ampel Men. Let’s face it – they are adorable!

In 1994, the Ampel Men faced being phased out as West German began modernising East German infrastructure  The people who campaigned to keep the Ampel Men won in the end. Instead of changing the design, the authorities agreed just to change the outdated electrical wiring on the lights.

The stop sign is a man in red with his outstretched hands meant to convey that you can not enter. The go sign is the man in his little hat walking with his hand showing a forward directional movement.

There is an Ampelmann shop on Unter den Linden, the main street in front of the Brandenburg Gate. It sells all sorts of novelties with the Ampelmann design such as magnets, cookie cutters, gummy candy and tee-shirts.

If you are looking for a cool gift from Berlin, these souvenirs at least have style and history behind them.  I though the gummy Ampelmann were so adorable I got them as treats for my children.  

There is even an Ampelmann cafe in the shop.  

A small section of the shop is devoted to pedestrian crossing lights in other parts of the world.

Two of the more interesting crossing lights:

Since 2011, crossing lights in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, show the country’s three national sports  – archery, riding and wrestling.

Since 2000, this little girl graces the traffic lights of Amersfoort in the province of Utrecht in The Netherlands.  She has been nicknamed Sofie by the locals.

Have you seen any cool pedestrian lights in your travels? I have to confess the Berlin Ampel Men are the first time I have even realised not all traffic lights are the same.

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I am an American expat based in London with my travel-loving family. I write at Just Go Places Blog about luxury, cultural and family travel.

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