How a small change in traffic light signals can reduce collisions with pedestrians by 15%

Originally published at: How a small change in traffic light signals can reduce collisions with pedestrians by 15% | Boing Boing


Any change that prioritises pedestrians over cars is going to improve the overall quality of life in any city. It took way too long but I’m glad that the shadow of Robert Moses (who would have opposed this on principle) is lifting from American cities.


I’m not sure why this isn’t standard. Other things that can see me in Hell: sensor lights that trigger a direction change in the presence of a car but don’t switch on the pedestrian lights at the same time unless a pedestrian has pressed the button. Every time the lights change, the corresponding pedestrian signal should always light.


I’m not sure I follow. The only way I can see this making a difference would be if traffic were allowed to drive through the crossing even when the WALK sign was lit. That can’t be right, can it?


In most areas in the States, cars are allowed to turn left or right, crossing a pedestrian walkway, on the same green light as the pedestrians. Only in some places do the pedestrians get the right-of-way while all of the cars have a red light.


The idea is that it leads the driver into being more careful by giving him a visual signal that pedestrians are walking alongside him before the traffic signal gives him permission to proceed or turn.


Where we are they have induction loops at the lights. Between the time a car stops on them to lights changing green for them can be four seconds if the intersection is clear. Pressing the begging button for a pedestrian can lead to a wait of 80 seconds before the green person lights up.

And you are fucking guaranteed that a car will speed through their red light. Every fucking time.

Camera enforcement at every red light is needed.


That’s scary. In the UK, a green light for pedestrians will automatically mean a red light for any traffic that could cross the crossing from any direction.


And of course induction-coil sensors don’t detect bikes at all.

We have some intersections in my town with button-triggered walk signals, but they’ll only give you a walk signal once a car pulls up and triggers a green light—they don’t cycle the light on their own.


I’m all for the change. Someone tries to run me over about 50% of the time I’m out walking. I refuse to cross streets near me clockwise anymore. If you cross counterclockwise, you clear the half of the intersection people are turning into first, hopefully before anyone even gets a chance to turn. People making left turns are the #1 category of drivers attempting to murder me. A delay wouldn’t change that (since they already can’t usually turn immediately), or make any difference at all when crossing clockwise, but I could see it reducing the number of people trying to murder me by turning right when I’m crossing counterclockwise.


Toronto has already made this change in most of the downtown intersections. And that change almost ended up killing my spouse and I. Right-turns on red lights are permitted here. We began crossing on the Walk signal and some twat perpendicular to us nearly ran us down because he was looking at the oncoming traffic he was turning into… not in our direction at all. It’d be nice if it saved lives, but given that drivers are less skilled than ever I am not holding my breath it’s gonna work.


I was going to say I don’t get it but it appears, for a few seconds, all directions have a red light, that’s when the pedestrian gets a head start. If that’s the case then it’s a great idea. The only danger left is turning on red.

The first time I drove in Downtown Toronto back in the 80s I totally freaked out because of the way everyone drove especially the taxi cabs. Now, after many many years of going there, I kind of enjoy it. Riding in a cab downtown is still an adventure and it’s best if you just look at your phone instead of out the window. That’s the same thing my wife does when I’m driving there.

Turning on red also causes the crosswalk to be blocked while they wait for traffic to clear. I wish cops would write that ticket more often.

Oh, and that pedestrian button, it may or may not do anything other than make you thank you’re in control.


Yeah, that is extremely uncommon in the US. Turning traffic is supposed to yield to all other traffic including pedestrians but they pay much more attention to cars. Large multi-lane intersections will often have protected left turns that are protected from walk signs and vice versa but right turns almost always conflict. The US also has right-on-red in most places which is just horrible as it usually requires cars to pull fully into the crosswalk in order to have enough visibility to see if there is traffic and also focuses their attention entirely in the opposite direction of where they are going to move their vehicle. It’s all very pedestrian hostile.


I’ve been noticing that more and more and wondering what was behind the change. Neat (and long overdue).

Especially since sometimes pedestrian light buttons break. I’ve seen crossings where the light would never change for pedestrians as a result and where the car signals would channel a never-ending stream of traffic through the crossing and never leave a gap for pedestrians to cross at all. So bad - a completely car-centric design, in places that were already hostile to pedestrians and leaving them with no alternative but to run into traffic to get past it.

I’ve come across so many crossings where the pedestrian light won’t turn on at all unless you press the button (and it’s working), making it pretty obvious. Despite the number of times I’ve read about pedestrian buttons that exist for show, a shocking number do work (when they work, that is). The fake buttons may be limited to densely urban, heavy pedestrian traffic areas, where traffic planners can just assume there are likely to be people walking. Elsewhere? Not so much.


Yes, that’s how it’s done in Chicago at least.


I have had this many times in the suburbs. At stop signs! Tends to be wealthy suburbs. I know a couple people who have gotten hit, actually, in crosswalks at a stop sign or during a red light, and the people have always gotten out of the car and started yelling.

Some places, the driving culture just isn’t conducive to avoiding hitting pedestrians regardless of the system you implement.


The other day, somebody honked at me for NOT taking a right turn when a pedestrian with a walk signal was crossing the intersection. I was tempted to get out of my car and lecture the driver on the concept of “right of way,” but I didn’t.


Interesting though that NYC does probably the #1 thing that would stop pedestrian fatalities: not allowing right on red.


My city has implemented leading pedestrian intervals. It’s helpful, but I regularly have to dodge out of the way of cars determined to make a turn on red, even when the LPI walk light is on. And even when they see me in the cross walk. :-/


America! Fuck yeah!