RESEARCH - Safety Evaluation of Pedestrian Countdown Signals

Pedestrian Countdown SignalHere's a document from the US Federal Highway Authority that looks at the safety benefit of pedestrian countdown signals. The study results showed that after the implementation of these signals, pedestrian crashes decreased by 9 percent, total crashes decreased by 8 percent and rear-end crashes decreased by 12 percent.

The new BC Active Transportation Design Guide speaks of these signals starting on page G34. The guide says that:

With pedestrian countdown timers, people  crossing  are  aware  of  how  much  time  they  have to cross the road.

This is not strictly true as it really only counts the time to the end of the green phase. If a pedestrian enters an intersection controlled by signals during the walk phase, they are required to proceed as quickly as possible during the don't walk phase if it occurs while they are crossing. If this happens they still have the right of way over all other vehicles to complete crossing. Section 132 MVA refers.


Question for the day. Who gets it right?

So why did they invent pedestrian control signals in the first place, folks?

Once that's comprehended, and only then, can appropriate driver and pedestrian behaviour be properly understood. That right-of-way issue in particular.

No answers, yet?

If you look at the history of traffic lights in BC, you have to go back about nine decades. So far as I'm aware, we only got our first one in 1928.

From what I've learned, it was at Main & Hastings, and the initial version didn't have an amber phase. 

But believe it or don't, that there traffic light controlled pedestrian behaviour, as well as vehicles. And in fact the law in BC hasn't fundamentally changed since. You can only walk on the green, unless a separate pedestrian 'walk' word or symbol allows it.

Green light

127 (1) When a green light alone is exhibited at an intersection by a traffic control signal,

(b) a pedestrian facing the green light may proceed across the roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk, subject to special pedestrian traffic control signals directing him or her otherwise

The problem with this is that if there are a number of pedestrians continually wanting to cross, but also a number of vehicles waiting to finish a turn and exit the intersection, the flow of the pedestrians preventing vehicles from moving will effectively jam the traffic.

That's why they invented separate pedestrian walk / don't walk signals; not, as many might believe, to protect or assist pedestrians to cross the road - but to prevent any more of them from crossing whilst continuing to exhibit a green light for traffic. Pedestrian signals were invented for their ability to stop pedestrians from crossing after the 'walk' signal has ended.

It's great to learn that these countdown devices have reduced both pedestrian and vehicle collisions! Traffic controls exist for two strong reasons; to promote all traffic flow whilst also reducing conflicts.

The problem, for the most part, is the persistence of pedestrians who continue to cross illegally in front of vehicles, relying on the driver's patience for their own protection. Rude, selfish, outrageous, illegal - and it screws up a lot of traffic movement.

This is a right-of-way issue, but so long as the police continue to neglect it - a deliberate choice that these same police have arbitrarily made - then the problem will only worsen. And it's high time they woke up to that fact, and started ticketing the miscreants. The way they used to.

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