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Why this quirky traffic sign is making Swedes do silly walks

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Why this quirky traffic sign is making Swedes do silly walks
One of the zebra crossing signs in Haparanda. Photo: Stefan Haapaniemi
16:40 CEST+02:00
Would eccentric signs at pedestrian crossings brighten up your day? The residents of this northern Swedish town seem to think so.

Close to Sweden's border with Finland, Haparanda has brought a smile to local faces with these new road signs that are shaking up the town centre by urging pedestrians to jump, dance or play the guitar while crossing the street.

The Local got in touch with Terese Östling, who is in charge of "Remake the City", a project launched in 2012 to revamp the heart of the historic parts of the town, to ask why.

She said the idea for the new signs came from Jytte Rüdiger, the local authority's chief of culture.

"She (Rüdiger) picked up on the fact that people in Haparanda had lots of ideas for development in the 'old' parts of town. Many cities in Sweden struggle with dying inner parts as new, big shopping centres pop up outside of town, attracting visitors and locals out of the town centre. Business, attractiveness and inner city life suffers as a result," she explained.


How to cross the street while carrying a guitar. Photo: Stefan Haapaniemi

The project has also involved creating new playgrounds, a beach with a restaurant, new benches and encouraging new businesses to set up shop in the area. But perhaps unsurprisingly, the signs have sparked the most reaction, with a report by national broadcaster SVT trending on social media on Monday.

Östling said they are a "final touch to connect the different parts of Haparanda, give a bit of local colour and guide visitors to the heart of Haparanda Old Town".


Want to dance across the street in Haparanda? Photo: Stefan Haapaniemi

The ideas for the various designs – which include a zebra crossing sign of a man doing a version of Monty Python comedian John Cleese's famous silly walks – were thought up by local residents.

"The result has been overwhelming! Every day I go into town, I see people taking pictures of the signs and other new attractions, enjoying the new vitality of a once tired and shabby inner city. Haparanda is on its way back," said Östling.

When asked if she had actually seen anyone give a quick boogie while crossing the street, she said: "I have seen it, but I can't prove it with a picture sadly."

This isn't the first time bizarre road signs have been used to garner attention or create awareness in Sweden. In 2015, a number of unofficial warning signs appeared around Stockholm's roads, gently mocking the tech-obsessed Swedes' dependency on their smartphones and social media. 

Their inventor later told The Local that the idea had ended up going global, with similar signs being set up in Finland's capital Helsinki as well as Russia's St Petersburg and Murmansk.

The silly walks signs have been tried before in Norway, but they did not go down very well with Norwegian authorities at the time.

This article was written by The Local's intern Saina Behnejad.

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