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Stadtwerke Augsburg
Stadtwerke Augsburg

Germany Installs Ground-Level Traffic Lights for Distracted Phone Users

Stadtwerke Augsburg
Stadtwerke Augsburg

We all know how annoying it is when people insist on using their phones while walking (until the inevitable moment when we all become that person). But on top of being obnoxious, texting while walking can also be dangerous. Between 2010 and 2014, emergency room visits that involved pedestrians distracted by their phones rose by 124 percent, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. In an effort to keep people from walking in front of trains while deciding whether to like or love a Facebook post, Germany is now experimenting with traffic lights built into the street, City Lab reports. 

A transportation provider in Augsburg, Germany, has installed traffic signals into the asphalt of two of the city's rail stations as part of an ongoing trial. When the street is safe to cross, the LED traffic lights flash green. When there's a tram approaching, they flash red to get the attention of any pedestrians with their eyes glued to a screen. 

Stadtwerke Augsburg

The lights are also visible from far away, which could prove useful to cyclists (who approach the tracks at a much greater speed) as well as distracted walkers. The new feature is still in the experimental stages for now, but if it's successful we could see them spread throughout Germany and eventually overseas. And as pedestrian fatalities in continue to increase in the U.S., they'd likely be a welcome addition to our streets. 

[h/t City Lab]

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
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This Just In
What Do You Get the Person Who Has Everything? Perhaps a German Village for Less Than $150,000
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Looking for a gift for the world traveler who has everything? If cost isn't an issue and they're longing for a quiet country home, Fortune reports that an entire village in East Germany is up for sale. The tiny hamlet of Alwine, in Germany's Brandenburg region, is going up for auction on Saturday, December 9. Opening bids begin at $147,230.

Alwine has around one dozen buildings and 20 full-time residents, most of them elderly. It was once owned by a neighboring coal plant, which shut down in 1991, soon after East Germany reunited with West Germany. Many residents left after that. Between 1990 and 2015, the regional population fell by 15 percent, according to The Local.


TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images

In 2000, a private investor purchased the decaying hamlet for just one Deutsche Mark (the currency used before the euro). But its decline continued, and now it's up for grabs once more—this time around, for a much-higher price.

Andreas Claus, the mayor of the district surrounding Alwine, wasn't informed of the village's sale until he heard about it in the news, according to The Local. While no local residents plan to purchase their hometown, Claus says he's open to fostering dialogue with the buyer, with hopes of eventually revitalizing the local community.

[h/t Fortune]

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