Brain Damaged Walk Lights

Have you ever wondered why so many people end up getting clobbered because they ignore traffic signals? Well, I think I have a partial explanation.

Does the following scenario seem familiar to anyone? You are walking along a major road. You arrive at a minor intersection which has a "traffic controlled" traffic signal which normally stays green for the major road. As you approach, you see that the walk signal to cross the minor road says "Don’t Walk". In fact, the signal has been reading the same for several minutes yet the signal for the vehicular traffic has not changed. You arrive at the intersection. You see a single button labeleed "Push to cross". It may even indicate the name of the major road. Yet there is no way to call the walk signal to cross the minor road. Now, the only way to cross the minor road legally is to push the walk signal, wait for the light to change for the traffic on the main road, wait for the light to cycle through the side road (which has no traffic on it), then cross the side road when the main road again gets a green signal. Presumably, the walk signal for the side road indicates crossing is legal for some duration when the light changes.

I can’t speak for other jurisdictions, but I believe I can speak somewhat authoritatively about Calgary. It seems that almost all traffic controlled signals in Calgary behave in the exact manner described above. This means that pedestrians that frequent areas with traffic signals that exhibit that behaviour develop a disdain for the "Don’t Walk" signal since, in all likelihood, when the walk signal changes, there’s going to still be plenty of time to cross the street. And, how many people are going to stand there and wait up to five minutes for a light to cycle to trigger the walk signal in the direction they want to cross? It’s no wonder people simply ignore the flashing "Don’t Walk" signal and cross anyway.

In all fairness to the city of Calgary, I should mention that many of the newer traffic controlled signals do not exhibit the behaviour described. And, again in fairness, I must point out that some that have been adjusted have also had that annoying behaviour removed. That is, the walk signal doesn’t change to "Don’t Walk" until something triggers the traffic signal to cycle. If only they hadn’t installed thousands of signals with the previously described broken behaviour before someone exercised some intelligence.

I suppose, though, that if everyone did everything in a sensible way, I wouldn’t have anything to rant about. Can’t even begin to imagine what I would do if I didn’t have stuff to rant about.

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