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Bicycles/Pedestrians

Safety Toolbox: Engineering


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Countdown Signals


   
The device consists of a standard pedestrian signal with standard shapes and color, with an added display that shows the countdown of the remaining crossing time. The countdown timer starts either at the beginning of the pedestrian phase or at the onset of the  flashing dont walk. The timer continues counting down through the pedestrian clearance interval. At the end of the pedestrian clearance interval, the countdown device displays a zero and the DON'T WALK indication or solid red hand appears.  Countdown signals are still experimental.  Agencies wishing to experiment with them must submit an experimentation request to the Federal Highway Administration.
objective To provide information to pedestrians about how much time is left to cross the street at signalized intersections.
applications This treatment is useful under the following conditions:
• Pedestrian clearance interval greater than 15 seconds
• High pedestrian volumes
• High levels of vehicular traffic conflicting with pedestrians
• Presence of mobility-impaired pedestrians
• School zones
target population Elderly Pedestrians, Disabled Pedestrians, All Pedestrians
crash type Pedestrian R/W Violation-Intersection, Pedestrian Violation-Intersection, Traffic Signals and Signs
advantages
  • Easily understood by all age groups
  • Increases the feeling of safety
  • Reduces the number of pedestrians stranded in the crosswalk when the light changes
  • Appropriately suited for wide crossing and areas where there are many senior citizens and people with walking disabilities
  • The great majority of installations are simple drop-in replacement
disadvantages
  • Not accessible to pedestrians with impaired vision
  • Some suppliers start the countdown at the beginning of the pedestrian phase and others at the beginning of the pedestrian clearance interval; this may confuse some pedestrians
  • Drivers may use the countdown to get a head start before they have a green light
  • May create a possible legal conflict if a pedestrian starts during the pedestrian clearance interval but cannot finish crossing before the countdown timer reaches zero
  • May encourage pedestrians to begin crossing during the Flashing Don't Walk phase
pointers It is appropriately suited for wide crossings and areas where there are many senior citizens and people with walking disabilities.  Jurisdictions should consider adding a 3 second all-red phase at the end of the countdown to discourage head starts by drivers.
cost Low, average purchase price for the countdown timers ranges from $300 to $800.
responsibility Public Works Department, Planning Department
further reading

(1) Botha, J. et. al. Pedestrian Countdown Signals: An Experimental Evaluation. Final Report to the California Traffic Control Devices Committee, May 2002. 

(2) Pedestrian Safety Initiatives in Salt Lake City; Leonard, J., M. Juckes, and B. Clement. Behavioral Evaluation of Pedestrians and Motorists Toward Pedestrian Countdown Signals. Laval, Quebec: Dessau-Soprin, Inc., March 1999.

examples City of San Francisco, Department of Parking and Traffic;
City of San Jose, Department of Transportation;
City of Walnut Creek, Community Development Department;
City of Berkeley, Transportation Division;
City of Oakland, Transportation Services Division;
Salt Lake City, UT, Transportation Division;
Canada, Dessau-Soprin Inc.;
City of Farmington, NM, Traffic Engineering Administrator;
City of Boston, MA, Boston Transportation Department
related tools Pedestrian Signals, Educational Signs for Pedestrians Signal Indications, Pedestrian Push Buttons and Treatments, Signal Timing for Pedestrians, Audible Pedestrian Signals

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