Monday, February 1, 2010

The 2 red lights mystery

The first time I saw it was outside my friend's house in Reutlingen. I turn to him and ask ‘why are there 2 red lights?’...he ponders for a minute before saying ‘I have not really noticed before and I really do not know’. I sort of assume that this was some weird mistake and move on.

As we go closer to the city centre, everywhere I look, I spot only these 2 red lights (arandavan kannuku irundadhellam pei logic) and it slowly starts driving me crazy. We met 2 other friends and the 4 of us decided to brainstorm the reason behind it (and yes, we were vetti but in our defense, it was a weekend and we were driving to the Alps). Here is a list of suggestions we came up with (all sensible, funny, ridiculous suggestions are included)
1. People in Reutlingen need to be told twice before they would start listening :D !
2. Maybe one is for the visually challenged and changes with a tone while the other is an old fashioned one without the tone and the overhead of removing them was higher than the benefit.
3. Maybe it is to help the color blind (those who cannot distinguish between red and green colors) who actually drive/walk only by the position of the traffic lights. So the two red lights are to indicate the red and amber signs for the pedestrians and bike riders.
4. Maybe the traffic lights for cars (red, amber and green) and pedestrians are connected to the same trigger circuit (cost/energy conservation) and one switches on along with the other.

In every case, the argument was flawed. In 2 and 3, for example, it still does not explain why the second red light (in the middle position) needs to glow. Even if you cannot ‘remove’ it, it shouldn’t be difficult to switch it off and this is Germany where mechanical sensors are installed everywhere to automatically switch off lights in offices and public places when there are no people in the area (unlike in the US where buildings are lit through the night to help birds fly into glass doors and die!!!). The same argument holds good for 4 where the purpose of energy conservation is defeated by the redundant red light. What is more wrong in this case is that, the traffic lights for pedestrians and cars do not change at the same moment, but there is a lead time in between (for overzealous walkers/bikers or hasty drivers).

I tried even asking a taxi driver and he blinks and says ‘I have never noticed it before’. I looked in vain for a cop to ask him the same question because it literally did drive me crazy.

Today I am quizzing my colleagues about it and they do not know either. I have a good mind to call the ‘Stadtverwaltung’ (city council) in Reutlingen to find out what is going on.

In the meanwhile, readers, go ahead and guess and if you can come up with a good reason, I will share my boost cake with you, I promise :)
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