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Akureyri Heart-Shaped Traffic Lights

2 min read

All we know that Icelandic winters can be very cold. With six months of darkness and icy storms that close roads and bridges, much of the country becomes inaccessible from October to April. This is the reason which led many residents to vacation through the winter months and financial instability can often make these much-needed breaks impossible, as was the case during the Icelandic financial crash of 2008. Despite the economic insecurity and hardships of winter, the northern city of Akureyri was determined not to lose a positive spirit, and adopted a unique strategy for beautifying the city and boosting its citizens’ mood: installing tiny, glowing hearts inside of all the traffic lights. Since then the red hearts in the traffic lights are visible as well as plenty of red hearts made of the flower “forget me not” decorating windows, cars and signs throughout the town.

In a 2013 Huffington Post‘s interview, the former mayor of Akureyri, Eiríkur Björn Björgvinsson, said the traffic lights were installed after the financial meltdown to “remind the citizens what really mattered” and give people a reason to smile at crosswalks and intersections.
Whatever the motivation, visitors to Akureyri will be clearly surprised to see these unusual traffic controls scattered throughout the area, lighting up the streets and providing a warm welcome to one of the northernmost cities in the world.

Visitors can also visit the huge heart that once beat in Mt. Vaðlaheiði on the opposite side of the fjord. The light installation was built by private electric companies around the same time as the traffic lights, and despite no longer working, it is still an impressive feat of artistic engineering: it consists of almost 400 lightbulbs and is about the size of a football field. Originally it was red, but is now white and was beating regularly from the end of November until April and also during the last weekend in August when Akureyri town celebrates its birthday of town rights.

Author’s note: The hearts of traffic lights can be seen with the red light at all the stoplights in Akureyri.

Images from Web (except the last one!)

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