Author Topic: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus  (Read 1360 times)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« on: April 16, 2020, 07:29:47 pm »
When someone on foot or bicycle wishes to cross the road at a signal-controlled junction, they are often presented with a push-button to press. This seems reasonable: if no-one wants to cross, there's no need to stop the traffic.

Is it reasonable, though?

Firstly, they are built on the presumption that motor traffic has primacy. Motorists are not expected to get out and push a button, so why are pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders?

Secondly, a motorist approaching a set of signals can see whether they are red or green. I've not seen this formally stated anywhere, but I strongly suspect that modern pedestrian lights are deliberately angled so that you cannot see them until you are at the crossing point, and in any case unless someone has pressed the beg button they won't show a green signal even if it is safe to cross.

Finally, in many cities around the world beg buttons are being deliberately disabled (or 'automated') because they are seen as a 'high-contact surface', and therefore highly likely to spread the coronavirus.

Is it too much to hope that beg buttons will soon become a thing of the past?

https://cal.streetsblog.org/2020/04/01/stop-touching-pedestrian-beg-buttons/

(post lifted straight from elseweb because there was no way I could improve on it)
Days become simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the shifting floors of time...

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #1 on: April 16, 2020, 08:02:04 pm »
Quote
Firstly, they are built on the presumption that motor traffic has primacy.

Zebra crossings do give pedestrians priority. Perhaps that's why they're not prefered.

So, turn all crossings into zebras!


Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #2 on: April 16, 2020, 08:09:14 pm »
A few pedestrian crossings in north London have a sabbath mode for local observant Jews.

TfL has also piloted schemes where the lights are green for pedestrians until a vehicle is detected. The magic phrase for this is "Green Man Authority":
http://www.jctconsultancy.co.uk/Symposium/Symposium2019/PapersForDownload/Green%20Man%20Authority%20An%20innovative%20solution%20to%20contribute%20to%20Healthy%20Streets%20in%20London.pdf

There seems to be absolutely no movement in the UK towards changing things as a result of The Rona.

Zebra crossings do give pedestrians priority. Perhaps that's why they're not prefered.

Pedestrian advocacy groups mostly hate zebras because they leave pedestrians at the mercy of the kindness of motorists.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2020, 08:47:37 pm »
A few pedestrian crossings in north London have a sabbath mode for local observant Jews.
Green man every 90 seconds! That's way more frequent than many button-activated crossings.

Quote
TfL has also piloted schemes where the lights are green for pedestrians until a vehicle is detected. The magic phrase for this is "Green Man Authority":
http://www.jctconsultancy.co.uk/Symposium/Symposium2019/PapersForDownload/Green%20Man%20Authority%20An%20innovative%20solution%20to%20contribute%20to%20Healthy%20Streets%20in%20London.pdf
I like this idea and the name.
Days become simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the shifting floors of time...

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2020, 08:53:03 pm »
I've never understood why there is a long delay between pressing the button on a plain ped crossing and the lights changing.
Any holdoff to prevent multiple re-triggering could equally be applied *after* the triggering, not before.

It causes peds to cross opportunistically before the lights change, thus making the actual vehicle red-light nothing more than an un-necessary inconvenience.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #5 on: April 16, 2020, 08:55:59 pm »
And thus also encouraging drivers to criticise pedestrians for both crossing "when it's not their turn" and holding up motorists.
Days become simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the shifting floors of time...

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2020, 09:00:29 pm »
I've never understood why there is a long delay between pressing the button on a plain ped crossing and the lights changing.
Any holdoff to prevent multiple re-triggering could equally be applied *after* the triggering, not before.

It causes peds to cross opportunistically before the lights change, thus making the actual vehicle red-light nothing more than an un-necessary inconvenience.

It may be poor programming where it's easier to have a certain time from button press to red light, as that doesn't delay the motorists, which is all that counts.

It may be to deal with the mythical youths who hover around the button and press it just as a car is getting to where the driver would have to brake quite hard.

The default setting is probably near the legal maximum time, and no thought at all has been put into programming. Always favour cock-up over conspiracy.

In pre-rush hour Coventry, it's rare to be able to see a pedestrian when driving and stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The delay is so big that whoever pushed the button is out of sight.
Quote from: Kim
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Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2020, 09:09:23 pm »
We have a very busy (in normal times) pelican crossing in Uxbridge, where the High St turns a corner (since the rest of the High Street was pedestrianised about 40 years ago). It will respond immediately to the button being pressed, except there is a minimum time of about 20 seconds for the traffic phase.

So if the button is pressed within 20 seconds of the end of a pedestrian phase, you have to wait a few seconds.

Interestingly, there was no crossing at all originally, and the council refused to install one because "there was no demand"! I think the criterion used to be that a certain number of pedestrian deaths had to occur to justify a crossing.

Feanor

  • It's mostly downhill from here.
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2020, 10:07:15 pm »
I've never understood why there is a long delay between pressing the button on a plain ped crossing and the lights changing.
Any holdoff to prevent multiple re-triggering could equally be applied *after* the triggering, not before.

It causes peds to cross opportunistically before the lights change, thus making the actual vehicle red-light nothing more than an un-necessary inconvenience.

It may be poor programming where it's easier to have a certain time from button press to red light, as that doesn't delay the motorists, which is all that counts.

It may be to deal with the mythical youths who hover around the button and press it just as a car is getting to where the driver would have to brake quite hard.

The default setting is probably near the legal maximum time, and no thought at all has been put into programming. Always favour cock-up over conspiracy.

In pre-rush hour Coventry, it's rare to be able to see a pedestrian when driving and stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The delay is so big that whoever pushed the button is out of sight.

I've heard the Mythical Youth argument before, and consider it baseless.

A driver approaching a set of lights is faced with the same situation regardless of what triggers those lights to change.
He has the same responsibility to prepare to stop if they change, regardless of what event triggered that change.
Be it a robot timer, a ped who pressed the button 90 seconds ago, or a ped who pressed it now.
Indeed, most drivers would not even consider what the trigger criteria were. All they see are the green light and vaguely consider the possibility they might change.
The timing from green through amber to red has not changed.
The need for emergency braking has not changed.

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2020, 10:46:56 pm »
Is it reasonable, though?
It is entirely reasonable where the main priority in town and city centres is motorised through traffic and not pedestrians. Pedestrians spend money in shops and are therefore inherently problematic and not to be encouraged. Without lots of motorised traffic we wouldn’t have the exceptional record of air pollution that we have spent decades developing. This important aspect of our great country’s heritage is both maintained and encouraged by making those who cannot afford cars, or occasionally choose not to use them, beg for an opportunity to cross the road.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2020, 11:12:04 pm »
I've never understood why there is a long delay between pressing the button on a plain ped crossing and the lights changing.
Any holdoff to prevent multiple re-triggering could equally be applied *after* the triggering, not before.

It causes peds to cross opportunistically before the lights change, thus making the actual vehicle red-light nothing more than an un-necessary inconvenience.

It may be poor programming where it's easier to have a certain time from button press to red light, as that doesn't delay the motorists, which is all that counts.

It may be to deal with the mythical youths who hover around the button and press it just as a car is getting to where the driver would have to brake quite hard.

The default setting is probably near the legal maximum time, and no thought at all has been put into programming. Always favour cock-up over conspiracy.

In pre-rush hour Coventry, it's rare to be able to see a pedestrian when driving and stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The delay is so big that whoever pushed the button is out of sight.

I've heard the Mythical Youth argument before, and consider it baseless.

A driver approaching a set of lights is faced with the same situation regardless of what triggers those lights to change.
He has the same responsibility to prepare to stop if they change, regardless of what event triggered that change.
Be it a robot timer, a ped who pressed the button 90 seconds ago, or a ped who pressed it now.
Indeed, most drivers would not even consider what the trigger criteria were. All they see are the green light and vaguely consider the possibility they might change.
The timing from green through amber to red has not changed.
The need for emergency braking has not changed.

Exactly.

It is down to the specifications for the lights and their interpretation. Given they are generally interpreted by Highway men, rather than pedestrians, they get set to the long end of the range.

A long time ago a chap from here, now sadly departed, gave me a phrase to use when debating with Highwaymen. “Of the people using the pedestrian crossing, which are the ones economically active in the area?” And of course, why are we disadvantaging them?
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2020, 11:43:12 pm »
Lots of traffic lights in London (particularly TfL roads such as red-routes) are controlled via a central computer system (SCOOT?). They're not independent lights.

This explains why a certain set of lights will sometimes turn red for motorists almost straight after the button is pressed, and then another time there will be a reasonable delay, even if the button hasn't been pressed in the previous 10 minutes in either case.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2020, 11:57:19 pm »
Yes, I wonder whether the pedestrian delay exists simply to train pedestrians to expect a delay, so that they can be held waiting with placebo beg buttons for the sake of motorised traffic flow.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2020, 01:38:35 am »
I've never understood why there is a long delay between pressing the button on a plain ped crossing and the lights changing.
Any holdoff to prevent multiple re-triggering could equally be applied *after* the triggering, not before.

It causes peds to cross opportunistically before the lights change, thus making the actual vehicle red-light nothing more than an un-necessary inconvenience.

It may be poor programming where it's easier to have a certain time from button press to red light, as that doesn't delay the motorists, which is all that counts.

It may be to deal with the mythical youths who hover around the button and press it just as a car is getting to where the driver would have to brake quite hard.

The default setting is probably near the legal maximum time, and no thought at all has been put into programming. Always favour cock-up over conspiracy.

In pre-rush hour Coventry, it's rare to be able to see a pedestrian when driving and stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The delay is so big that whoever pushed the button is out of sight.

I've heard the Mythical Youth argument before, and consider it baseless.

A driver approaching a set of lights is faced with the same situation regardless of what triggers those lights to change.
He has the same responsibility to prepare to stop if they change, regardless of what event triggered that change.
Be it a robot timer, a ped who pressed the button 90 seconds ago, or a ped who pressed it now.
Indeed, most drivers would not even consider what the trigger criteria were. All they see are the green light and vaguely consider the possibility they might change.
The timing from green through amber to red has not changed.
The need for emergency braking has not changed.

The mythical youth could make the need for harsh braking much more common. Without malice on the part of the pedestrian, the pedestrian will press the button as soon as they arrive. That is independent of the arrival of the car, so the time when the light goes to amber is also independent of the arrival of the car. The light could turn amber when the car is so close that stopping isn't possible (including when it  has passed the crossing), when harsh braking is needed, or when there is plenty of time to brake. All are possible, and harsh braking is rarely needed.

If the lights to amber change as soon as the button is pressed, the mythical youth could observe the car and wait for it to get to the point where harsh braking is required, and then press the button, making harsh braking a near-certainty. Add 20 s delay and that is very difficult. Obviously this would be an excuse, just like putting anti-bike barriers on bike lanes to stop mopeds.

I've not seen this mythical behaviour, but on crossings with no lights I've seen odd behavior. I was driving in town on a summer evening, so good visibility and little traffic. I saw someone waiting to cross a zebra crossing, about half a mile away as I was approaching, driving at 30 mph. He waited the whole minute it took me to arrive, and come to a halt, before starting to cross. Although he was an old man, who walked quite slowly across the zebra crossing, it took him much less time than I had taken to arrive. I assume that he had seen me about when I had seen him, as I assume he would have crossed if there were no cars at all. It's easy to see that sort of event as an excuse to prevent pedestrians slowing cars.

(OTOH Canada is really strange for drivers' reactions to pedestrians. Drivers seem to stop when you are just thinking about crossing the road, anywhere not just at crossings. As a tourist and not in a hurry, I had vehicles just about emergency stopped when I turned to the road to see if it was clear to cross. With little traffic, I was happy to wait for a gap, and it was expecting to go after the vehicles, but the drivers just stopped)
Quote from: Kim
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Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2020, 07:09:09 am »
Harsh braking at a pedestrian crossing is entirely the fault of the driver. A driver has to be observant for upcoming hazards and react accordingly. A pedestrian crossing is a hazard and a driver should already be slowing down. If they have to harsh brake they are a fundamentally crap or selfish driver, and that is what is needed to be altered, not the way the lights behave.
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2020, 07:28:17 am »
I would be in favour of extending the time that amber shows by one second to give a little bit more time to stop.

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2020, 07:37:56 am »
Sadly, that might be the best way. Unfortunately we have created a society where driver behaviour can fall way, way below the behaviour of others, and still be lauded or excused.

Increasing the time of the orange light seems counter intuitive in an era where brakes and tyres are way better than they were...
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2020, 09:23:07 am »
...
A long time ago a chap from here, now sadly departed, gave me a phrase to use when debating with Highwaymen. “Of the people using the pedestrian crossing, which are the ones economically active in the area?” And of course, why are we disadvantaging them?

Nah, as a million councils will tell you, we want those people out of our towns so cars can drive on through, that's why we have such vibrant high streets.
!nataS pihsroW

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2020, 10:54:38 am »
Yes, I wonder whether the pedestrian delay exists simply to train pedestrians to expect a delay, so that they can be held waiting with placebo beg buttons for the sake of motorised traffic flow.
This argument, without specifically using the word placebo, is one I've heard from no less than a highway engineer responsible for pedestrian crossings in Bristol CC.
Days become simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the shifting floors of time...

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2020, 01:14:04 pm »
I would be in favour of extending the time that amber shows by one second to give a little bit more time to stop.

I forgot: the option I would prefer to see is in the UK is what happens in Slovakia, which is that the green light blinks a couple of times to announce the forthcoming amber light. I find that so helpful.

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #20 on: April 18, 2020, 01:59:11 pm »
I would be in favour of extending the time that amber shows by one second to give a little bit more time to stop.

I forgot: the option I would prefer to see is in the UK is what happens in Slovakia, which is that the green light blinks a couple of times to announce the forthcoming amber light. I find that so helpful.

France (and no doubt others) have lights that countdown to the green so everyone then knows when it's safe to jump the red...

Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #21 on: April 18, 2020, 03:10:57 pm »
My nearest crossing (30mph main road, infrequent pedestrians) waits for either a gap in the traffic or a certain time (too long). If the traffic is gappy the light usually goes red at the time I've got to the opposite pavement. If it is busy, then the sensor could surely tell that and just get me out of the fumes sooner (with a minimum green car phase to stop me being a dick). As it is i seem to have to wait for many more motorists to get use of the space.

There's also a tendency in busy streets to install pedestrian indicators on the near lamppost. So i'm not looking across the road, but through the 10 people between me and the indicator. The button here could mostly be discarded and pedestrians treated as just another phase on the lights.

These days, if we can spot moving traffic we can probably spot stationary pedestrians (cyclists, horseists). The beg button could reasonably be a last resort in case the "wait" sign doesn't come on.

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Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #22 on: April 18, 2020, 03:19:47 pm »
There's also a tendency in busy streets to install pedestrian indicators on the near lamppost. So i'm not looking across the road, but through the 10 people between me and the indicator.
There are some where the box with the light and the button actually obscure the waiting pedestrian's view of oncoming traffic.
Days become simply the spaces between dreams, spaces between the shifting floors of time...

mattc

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Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2020, 06:15:45 pm »
There is a brilliant cartoon somewhere out there of a stationary driver pressing a begging-button from his car window, as the peds/cyclists glide past him unfettered.

Last time I googled for it I came up with zilch - is anyone here smarter than me?!?
Has never ridden RAAM
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Re: Pedestrian 'beg buttons' in the times of coronavirus
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2020, 09:19:50 pm »


mattc, I am not smarter, just more bored, perhaps.