Do Traffic Crosswalk Buttons Really Work?

February 21, 2020
Pedestrian Crosswalk

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Most times when you come to an intersection controlled by a traffic light, you will see a button that pedestrians can press to alert the traffic light they need to cross the street.  But do those buttons work?  As with most answers in life, it's complicated.  Considering the button exists, it must work. But it isn't as simple as that. Pushing the button doesn’t cause a “WALK” signal to appear immediately. The traffic control system still needs to complete its cycle and allow cars enough time to get through the intersection. That could take anywhere from five seconds to two minutes, depending on the signal settings and the traffic. There is also a "recall" setting traffic control systems use where pushing the crosswalk button does nothing at all as pedestrian crossings are already built into the signal cycles, so a “WALK” will come up eventually, at some predetermined interval, whether you push the button or not.  The complicated aspect is that signal settings can vary by time of day, so it’s possible that the buttons “work”—in the sense that the system responds to pedestrian detection—during off-peak periods and not during peak periods, when pedestrian signals are in recall. And you really don't know what mode it is in. If, after pushing the button, you find yourself waiting for what feels like an eternity, chances are the system is simply trying to balance the needs of drivers also passing through the intersection.

SOURCE: Mental Floss

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