Dodgeville

Random Wanderings and Wonderings

Posts tagged: pedestrians

Pedestrian crossing

By , July 9, 2012

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Surely my eyes deceive me, but is that a signed and signalled pedestrian crossing in the middle of an overgrown farmer’s field? I’ve got to check this out.

 

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Maybe I’m not so blind after all. That really does seem to be a pedestrian signal. I must get closer.

 

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Yep, that’s definitely one of Mr. Stickman’s¬†genteel cousins showing me the way across. But across what? What the hell is he doing out standing in this field in the middle of nowhere?

Pedestrian crossing in a field

Sheesh. I know I often complain about bad pedestrian infrastructure, but this is ridiculous.

Still, I’d love to see simple signals like this across tracks in Toronto instead of huge pedestrian overpasses that turn a 10-second crossing into a 3-minute climb.

 

 

No, I will not obey my signal

By , May 7, 2012

Dumb pedestrian signal

Dumb pedestrian signal

It’s hard to believe that in 2012, the City of Toronto persists in installing new pedestrian signals on sidewalks across the top of T-intersections. This one, installed as part of the signalization earlier this year of the intersection of Laird and Esandar Drives in Leaside, has also been noted by the Fixer for its perplexing lights that face the two quiet driveways at the top of the T.

It’s not the waste of money or phony “war on” anything that bothers me here, it’s the fact that such a useless signal represents the current standard for pedestrian infrastructure in 2012. City planners and traffic engineers hear me now: a pedestrian on a sidewalk always has the right of way over any kind of traffic that crosses that sidewalk. Period. A vehicle coming out of a driveway should never have the right of way over a pedestrian on the sidewalk.

As for the “pedestrians obey your signals” sign, here’s a hint for the City: any time you feel obligated to put up a sign or signal, and then another sign instructing people to obey the first one, you’re doing it wrong.

(A similar signal installation was noted by Vic Gedris back in 2007.)

Random notes for pedestrians

By , November 21, 2011

[Continuing a series I started last year with motorists and other cyclists.]

Please look up before you cross the street. We’re both lucky that I tuned up my brakes last night.

If you’re at the crosswalk and I’m stopped, waiting for you to cross, please don’t pause and try to wave me through; you have the right of way and I’m waiting here until you get across.

There are leash laws in this city, and one of the things they’re designed to prevent is your dog chasing my bike. The world isn’t your dog run and that leash isn’t doing anyone any good dangling around your neck.

This is a bike lane. It’s not a jogging lane, a standing-and-talking lane, a wait-for-cars-before-crossing-the-road lane, or a peer-down-the-street-looking-for-a-bus lane.

If you’re going to step into the bike lane to get around a knot of other pedestrians, at least have the good sense to check for oncoming bikes first.

If you’re walking four abreast on the park path, do the polite thing and move aside for others.

One ding of the bell is a polite notice. Two dings is a request. Three dings is an attempt to be heard through your earbuds. Four dings is exasperation.

Please train your children and dogs not to run at bikes.

Contrary to popular belief, bikes cannot stop on a dime. Not even on a loonie.

Hey kids, you know when I’m coming down the road and you stand aside with your hockey sticks and shout, “Biiiiike….”? I love it.

Just because the lane of cars is stopped doesn’t mean that it’s safe to step into the bike lane.

There’s a perfectly good sidewalk right beside you; why do you have to push your SUV stroller in the wrong direction in the bike lane? And seriously, you’re giving me a dirty look for not giving you a wide enough berth? Get over yourself.

I’m all for kids playing in the street, but playing in the intersection is asking for trouble.

Actually, this is a contra-flow bike lane, I am allowed to ride in this direction on this one-way street, and you should look both ways before stepping onto the road.

When my bike is parked at the local post-and-ring, it is not a footrest, luggage rack, purse stand, personal mirror, cell phone booth, or smoking area.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have about my bike, lock, panniers, trailer, jacket, helmet cover, lights, basket, or anything else you find interesting about my gear, but opening with, “How much did that cost?” is pretty rude.

Thank you for stopping and asking if I was okay after you saw me fall over sideways after stopping at the red light. I also thank you for nodding politely when I muttered something about clipless pedals and for stifling your laughter until I was out of earshot.

Operation Safe Journey

By , March 20, 2007

The Toronto Police issued a press release (thanks to Martino for the link) on Sunday announcing the start of Operation Safe Journey, a week-long blitz against drivers and cyclists who endanger pedestrians. Bravo! But tellingly, the press release also promises to target “pedestrians who fail to obey traffic signals or who fail to yield to traffic.”

If you believe the CityNews take on the crackdown, it’s aimed almost entirely at pedestrians. City’s story typifies the blame-the-victim mentality of the media and the police, stating, “Many of those killed last year were guilty of crossing the street in the worst possible place and at the worst possible time.” Mmm, smells like Rob Ford. Yes, it’s your own damn fault if you venture into the city without a car. You’ve got some nerve, not waiting (and waiting, and waiting…) your turn to cross the street. Don’t you know that streets are for cars?

So as a public service to the Toronto Police, I’m rewriting their press release. This is how it should read:

In 2006, there were 57 traffic fatalities in the City of Toronto. Thirty were pedestrians, with one?third of them over 65. In contrast, 38 people were killed by guns in the City of Toronto in the same period.

These were tragedies that need not have occurred.

As members of our society and as road users, whether as pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists, we share a responsibility for preventing these tragedies.

Motorists must exercise more caution when manoeuvring their 2-tonne vehicles around the city, and remember that pedestrians don’t have crumple zones, air bags, or seat belts to keep them safe in collisions. In fact, in your haste to be the last car turning through the advanced green a full 5 seconds after it stopped flashing, or make that right turn without looking where you’re going, or zip past the bus stopped in front of the crosswalk, you’re putting pedestrians’ lives at risk. Oh, and your premiums may go up a little after your insurance company pays a few thousand dollars to scrape a dead pedestrian out of your grill.

Being in a car does not automatically give you the right of way. Shaving a few seconds off your mad cross-town dash isn’t a good enough reason to endanger someone’s life. Just because a pedestrian isn’t in a car doesn’t mean that she isn’t in as much of a rush as you are to get to where she’s going.

Pedestrians should remember that many motorists don’t see you unless you’re inside a shiny metal box on four wheels. Many of those that do see you consider you to be a nuisance, serving no purpose but to delay them on their appointed rounds. The motorists who do treat you with the respect you deserve risk being rear-ended by all of the other motorists. Please look both ways before you cross the street.

On Monday, March 19, 2007, the Toronto Police Service will embark on a one?week education and enforcement campaign entitled “Operation Safe Journey”. This campaign will target motorists whose aggressive driving habits endanger the safety of pedestrians.

And next week, we’ll be running Operation Safe Shootings, a blitz targetting people who get shot. It’s their own fault, you know.

Of course, what they really wanted to write probably looks something more like this:

Hey Pedestrians! Get outta the way!

Note for the argumentative: I am a motorist, cyclist, and pedestrian, though not necessarily in that order. Of the three groups, motorists have the largest burden to act responsibly because of the amount of damage they can inflict on the other two groups when something goes wrong. Yes, there are irresponsible cyclists, and irresponsible pedestrians, but let’s be honest about where the responsibility lies.

The second-class pedestrian

By , February 22, 2007

In a story last week, The Fixer touched on one of my pet peeves: pedestrian signals at intersections that don’t change with the traffic signal unless you press the button. Now I understand that many signals in the city won’t change unless a vehicle is waiting or a pedestrian presses the button. That’s not what’s at issue. The problem here is that when a vehicle is present and causes the light to change, the pedestrian signal doesn’t change to “walk” unless a pedestrian also presses the button. The reverse is not true: if the signal changes in response to a pedestrian pressing the button, both the traffic and pedestrian lights change.

So why not always switch the pedestrian signal with the main traffic signal? Toronto Transportation Services calls these “Semi-Actuated Type 2″ (SA2) signals and gives this explanation in their pedestrian FAQ:

Why do some signals, which have pedestrian displays, show a “Don’t Walk” indication even when the signal is green for the side-street (minor road)?
This situation occurs when a vehicle has been detected on the side-street and no pedestrian has pushed the button. This only can occur at locations where the City’s Transportation Staff has installed a Semi-Actuated “Type 2″ (SA2) intersection. With this type of operation, a pedestrian must push one of the pedestrian push buttons to receive a “Walk” signal. When a button is pushed, a pedestrian will receive a “Walk” signal with sufficient time to cross the major road. If a button is not pressed and the traffic control signals respond to a vehicle only, a green signal will be displayed along with a “Don’t Walk” indication for pedestrians. The length of this green signal could be considerably shorter than the required walk time for a pedestrian because the length of the green signal is variable, based on the vehicle demand only (as the pedestrian push button was not pressed).

We use this type of operation to maximize the efficiency of the intersection. It serves to minimize delay for the relatively heavier volume of traffic on the major road.

It is the City’s practice to always install pedestrian information signs, which describe this operation at these types of intersections.

“So what’s the big deal?” you ask? Just press the button, right? Well, it’s not always that simple. First, pedestrians don’t always arrive at an intersection in time to press the button. If you’re walking up to an intersection and don’t reach the button before the light changes, you’re stuck waiting for the next cycle. Well, most people aren’t willing to wait and will simply walk across with the green light, even though they’re facing the “don’t walk” hand.

This behaviour raises at least two safety problems. First and foremost, the immediate safety of the pedestrian is at stake. Many drivers, seeing the “don’t walk” pedestrian signal, will simply power ahead with a left or right turn, completely ignoring any pedestrians that may be crossing at the time. I’ve seen this happen many times at my local SA2-signalled intersection.

The second, more insidious, effect of these signals is that they train pedestrians to ignore pedestrian signals. Most pedestrians in Toronto know by now that if they’re looking at a “don’t walk” signal but road traffic travelling in the same direction has a green light, it’s okay to walk across and ignore the big red hand. Unfortunately, this isn’t always true: pedestrian walk signals at many three phase intersections are active for only one phase, and crossing at any other time is a genuine hazard. It can be difficult for a pedestrian to tell whether a “don’t walk” signal is “legitimate” or not.

It’s one thing to bellyache about a problem, and quite another to propose reasonable alternatives. So here are two easy solutions:

  1. Allow a pedestrian to light up the walk signal by pressing the button after the traffic light has changed to green. Yes, this will extend the cycle by a few seconds, but it will greatly enhance safety. And it will only slow the cycle if a pedestrian is actually present. I noticed on a trip there last summer that many signals in San Francisco behaved like this.
  2. Failing that, just program the SA2 signals to always flip the pedestrian signal along with the main signal and forget about the few seconds potentially saved by shortening the cycle for vehicles only. The efficiency lost will be more than offset by the elimination of confusion for both motorists and pedestrians.

Above all, Transportation Services must remember than pedestrians are traffic too. Just because we’re walking doesn’t mean that we aren’t in just as big a rush to get from A to B as someone in a car.

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