Blinking lights and symbolic legs



With the growth in prosperity after the Second World War, ownership of motor vehicles increased rapidly and so did accidents on the roads. 

Road signs became more necessary, and the Australian Standards Association formed a road sign committee to research needs and effectiveness, and to coordinate the approach nationally.

In 1952 the committee requested that the NSW Transport Department set up an experimental beacon at an appropriate intersection. The beacon was to be suspended over a crossroad and to flash in all four directions once every second. The request actually came from the Victorian representatives, so it is not clear why the beacon was placed in New South Wales.

The intersection chosen was that of Roseville Road (today’s Warringah Road) and Wakehurst Parkway, and in October 1952 the ‘Blinking Light’ was born. Before installation, technicians monitored vehicle speeds both on approach and on entering the intersection and they repeated the checks afterwards.

Unfortunately, the results were never released to the public but perhaps they were somewhat disappointing as the concept did not sweep Australia. Traffic police continued to manually control most busy intersections for quite a few more years, before the installation of the now familiar red/amber/green traffic lights.

However, the Standards Association road sign committee remained active. Readers may be interested to learn that the ubiquitous black and yellow signs with the pair of truncated legs – that draw attention to pedestrian crossings – also emerged in 1952. As was reported in the press at the time, “The symbolic legs, studded with reflector buttons, resemble a similar sign seen in Ceylon by the chairman of the committee, Professor AP Elkin, who is professor of anthropology at Sydney University.”

Richard Michell, Contributor, Peninsula Living Magazine

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