Teaching Street Crossing at Signalized Intersections
Passed unanimously at O&M Division business meeting July, 2006
Because traffic signals installed in recent years are computer controlled and change with the traffic needs, they do not routinely provide a pedestrian crossing time unless the pedestrian interacts with the signal, usually by pushing a pushbutton or standing in a certain location to trigger the pedestrian signal. Orientation and Mobility (O&M) programs of instruction must provide consumers who are blind or visually impaired with information and crossing strategies and techniques to prepare them to cross at these actuated signalized intersections.
Traditional O&M techniques for crossing at signalized intersections (Allen, Barbier, Griffith, Kern, & Shaw, 1997; Hill & Ponder, 1976; Jacobson, 1993; LaGrow & Weessies, 1994; Willoughby & Monthei, 1998) have relied on predictable patterns of traffic and on signal cycles that routinely provide enough time for pedestrian to cross the street. However, more than 90% of signalized intersections in the United States are now actuated at least part of the time (Barlow & Franck, 2005), resulting in highly variable signal cycles and traffic patterns. Without preparation and instruction concerning actuated signals, pedestrians who are blind or who have low vision may not be fully informed of the risks they are assuming in making a street crossing, nor have adequate information to make an informed decision about their safety. Recent research at actuated intersections indicated that blind pedestrians may not have adequate time to complete their crossing before perpendicular traffic begins moving if they have not used the pushbutton to call a pedestrian phase, and, may begin crossing at the wrong time, while turning traffic has the right-of-way across their crosswalk. (Barlow, Bentzen, & Bond 2005).
Specifically, during instruction, O&M specialists will provide consumers with Information about how actuated signals function, including the following facts about actuated signals:
that it is not possible to determine with certainty whether a signal is actuated without contacting the traffic engineer responsible for the intersection, and that signal cycles and phasing can be changed from a central traffic management center, in seconds, without notice,
that actuated signals do not routinely provide adequate time for pedestrians to cross, unless pedestrians make their presence known to the signal controller (signal computer), usually with the press of a pedestrian button,
that, due to right and left turn protected phases (turn arrows), pedestrians must cross during the walk interval appropriate for their crosswalk in order to have legal right of way,
that the pedestrian pushbutton usually calls the walk signal during the next signal cycle, but may skip a cycle due to vehicular traffic demands,
that, in some suburban and rural areas, there are actuated signals where there are no pedestrian pushbuttons or other pedestrian provisions (such as visual pedestrian signal heads), and therefore there is no way for pedestrians to be assured of adequate crossing time;
In addition, during instruction, O&M specialists shall provide consumers with the following:
Techniques for finding and using pedestrian pushbuttons;
Techniques for realigning after using the pedestrian pushbutton;
Techniques for crossing with the near parallel traffic and methods for determining when that information is not adequate;
Awareness that even using all these techniques, there may not be adequate time or information available at some intersections;
Information about accessible pedestrian signals, and about regulations regarding accessibility; and
Strategies for advocating for accessibility features as needed, such as accessible pedestrian signals, extended timing, or other intersection modifications.
Allen, W, Barbier, A., Griffith, A., Kern, T., & Shaw, C. (1997). Orientation and mobility teaching manual (2nd ed.). New York: CIL.
Barlow, J.M., Bentzen, B.L. and Bond, T. (2005) Blind pedestrians and the changing technology and geometry of signalized intersections: Safety, orientation and independence. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Vol 99, (10),587-598.
Barlow, J.M., and Franck, L. (2005) Crossroads: Modern Interactive Intersections and Accessible Pedestrian Signals. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. Vol 99, (10), 599-610.
Hill, E., & Ponder, P. (1976). Orientation and mobility techniques: A guide for the practitioner. New York: American Foundation for the Blind.
Jacobson, W (1993). The art and science of teaching orientation and mobility. NewYork: American Foundation for the Blind.
LaGrow, S., & Weessies, M. (1994). Orientation and mobility: Techniques for Independence. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.
Willoughby, D. M., & Monthei, S. L. (1998). Modular instruction for independent travel. Baltimore, MD: National Federation of the Blind.