What Are the Regulations Concerning APS in Montreal?

What Are the Regulations Concerning APS in Montreal?

What Are the Regulations Concerning APS in Montreal?

 

200 Accessible Pedestrian Signals can be found throughout Montreal. These devices help visually impaired people to cross the street safely by activating an audible message. 

The municipal council of Montreal has full responsibility for APS installation and maintenance in the City while taking into account national standards and guidelines.

As a road decision-maker of the city of Montreal you will find in this article all the information you need to know about APS regulation.

State Final Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals

In May 2008, the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) has issued Final Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals that update the accessible pedestrian signal provisions within the TAC Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Canada (MUTCDC).  

These guidelines do not constitute standards but provide a set of stand-alone national guidances to uniform installation, operation and maintenance instructions necessary to meet the Accessible Pedestrian Signal needs of people with vision loss in Canada.

Ideally, funding levels for APS should be set to accommodate local needs. Potential APS sites must be prioritized for installation as part of a program, or a list of requested sites.

The final guidelines include a number of factors that are indicators of a need for APS such as:

⊗ Intersection safety, including intersection configuration, width of crossing, and vehicle speeds;

⊗ Pedestrian usage, including the number of potential users, proximity to pedestrian generators and transit;

⊗ Traffic conditions; 

⊗ Difficulty in crossing the road without the use of APS.

Bill C-81: An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada

Bill C-81 Statutes of Canada Chapter 10 “An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada” was ratified on July 21th 2019.

“This Act is to be carried out in recognition of, and in accordance with, the following principles:

⊗ all persons must have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society, regardless of their disabilities;

⊗ all persons must have meaningful options and be free to make their own choices, with support if they desire, regardless of their disabilities;

⊗ laws, policies, programs, services and structures must take into account the disabilities of persons, the different ways that persons interact with their environments and the multiple and intersecting forms of marginalization and discrimination faced by persons;”

The implementation of this national act will probably soon lead to new regulations for APS installation and characteristics throughout the country.

 

Locals laws of Montreal

Montreal’s road network is composed of approximately 2300 intersections equipped with traffic lights, of which 200 is equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals. The Municipal Powers Act provides that the municipality has jurisdiction over public roads. Management of APS is not the responsibility of the Government of Quebec or Canada. 

The City of Montreal is therefore responsible for installing and maintaining all traffic lights.

According to the legislative framework in force, the traffic lanes fall into two categories: the arterial network and the local network. In 2016, 1711 intersections were part of the arterial network and 575 of the local network.

Since 2015, the municipal council has jurisdiction over traffic lights located on the city’s local and arterial network under section 85.5 of the Charter of Ville de Montreal.

As the instance responsible for the management and maintenance of public roads, the City must respect the standards established in the Highway Safety Code Chapter C-24.2. These are the standards for the manufacture and installation of traffic lights established by the Ministry of Transport, Sustainable Mobility and Transport Electrification recorded in Volume V – Road Signs.

During the 2000s, the Department of Roads, Transport and Infrastructures has denounced poor maintenance of traffic lights causing regular breakdowns. In 2004, the City began an initial phase of upgrading traffic lights as part of the Transportation Plan for the Island of Montreal. Adopted in 2008, the Plan announced orientations in several areas prioritizing pedestrians by improving the safety of walking and adopting the Vision Zero project aimed at reducing road accidents by 40% by bringing APS to standard.

In 2013, the authorities reiterated their commitment to accentuate the installation of APS in the city. The upgrading program “Traffic lights and traffic management equipment” was registered in 2015 as a priority program by the Office of Projects and Capital Programs (BPPI).

APS characteristics

From a legal point of view, since 2008 the standards required by the Ministry and the Canadian Electricity Code are applicable to the City of Montreal. The City, the Department and the Canadian Electrical Code therefore impose common requirements regarding the characteristics of the APS units.

The main APS characteristics can be found in the Final Guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals.

APS installation

The installation of APS, as well as pedestrian lights, bicycle lights and bus priority lights, are internal standards. The Division of Exploitation and Arterial Network (DERA) has produced a guide in addition to the Ministry standards called “Signaux Sonores DT-2002” to standardize in detail the installation of APS at intersections equipped with traffic lights.

Without going too far in the technical specifications, the APS standards provide, among other things:

1. The permanent emission of a beep in the immediate vicinity of each activation button, in order to facilitate the identification.

2. Production of a confirmation tone when the audible signal is commanded for the next cycle.

3. The installation, on both sides of the pedestrian crossing, in its center line, and at a suitable height, of speakers coming into operation only when the APS has been activated, and playing a characteristic melody throughout the time when the crossing of pedestrians is allowed, a rhythm on 4 notes in the engagement phase, and a rhythm on 3 notes in phase of release. This melody is played alternately on both sides of the pedestrian crossing, to allow the pedestrian to maintain a trajectory in a straight line.

4. When several APS are installed at the same crossroads, the “Melody of Canada” is installed for those of the East-West axis and the “Cuckoo” for those of the North-South axis. Research and experiments are currently underway to improve the parameters of the “Cuckoo”.

5. When an APS is in use on a given crosswalk, the movement of pedestrians can not be thwarted by any vehicular movement; the right turn on a red light is prohibited at all times, and turns on green light, if any, are permitted only outside the cycle where the audible signal is heard.

Local associations recommendations

On September 12, 2015, by the unanimous will of its General Assembly, the Regroupement des Aveugles et Amblyopes du Québec fully supported Quebec’s standards for APS, and expressed its desire to maintain its mandatory and universal nature.

The association strongly invited the Ministry of Transport of Quebec and the Quebec Ministry of Municipal Affairs to facilitate the installation of new APS by participating in their financing alongside the municipality.

They are also encouraging research, experimentations and technological watch to change the current standard, and invite the Ministry of Transport to provide technical and financial support.

Find out more about Montreal accessibility in our article!

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The Municipal Powers Act provides that the municipality has jurisdiction over public roads. Management of APS is not the responsibility of the Government of Quebec or Canada. The City of Montreal is therefore responsible for installing and maintaining all traffic lights.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

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By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Is Montreal a Fit City for Blind People to Live In?

Is Montreal a Fit City for Blind People to Live In?

Is Montreal a Fit City for Blind People to Live In?

 

The public Quebec Automobile Insurance Corporation (SAAQ) has launched an advertising campaign to ensure that pedestrians and drivers are seen by each other. With its slogan “When crossing, look at each other” the SAAQ invites drivers and pedestrians to make eye contact. However people with visual impairment can not make this contact that guarantees their safety.

How does the City of Montreal takes into account the need for security of vulnerable people? What are the mobility difficulties faced by blind pedestrians in Montreal and what are the solutions provided by the City?

Let’s see if Montreal is a fit city for blind people to live in!

What are the difficulties faced by blind people when crossing the road in Montreal?

Road sharing

The concept of road sharing is increasingly present in Quebec. Pedestrians are also more and more likely to share their traveling spaces. Unfortunately, these developments do not always take into account the safety of pedestrians, especially those with visual limitations. For example, in the case of multifunctional runways, poor layouts can cause a visually impaired person to deviate into the cyclist zone.

Electric and hybrid vehicles

In March 2019, there were 42913 electric vehicles in Quebec.

In a 2009 study, updated in 2011 and intended for the United States Congress, it has been shown that the probability of an accident between a car and a pedestrian is 35% higher if the vehicle is electric. In the majority of cases, the near absence of noise is at the origin of the accident.

Moreover blind or low vision people make extensive use of vehicle noise to determine when it is safe to cross at an intersection and maintain a straight line during this crossing.

Right turn at a red light

The Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) has granted motorists traveling outside the Island of Montreal the privilege of being able to turn right on a red light. Some mayors of Montreal have expressed their desire to obtain the same privilege.

The right turn on a red light is not safe not only for people with vision loss, but also for pedestrians in general. According to the Quebec Ministry of Transport, between April 2003 and December 2014, the right turn at a red light has caused 246 accidents. The Amblyopian Blind Quebec Group (RAAQ) calls for the ban on this maneuver to be strictly maintained on the Island of Montreal for major security reasons.

The absence of sidewalks

The absence of sidewalks, particularly in the Quartier des Arts in Montreal, prevents blind and partially sighted citizens from distinguishing the boundary between the sidewalk and the street. They can easily deviate and end up in parallel traffic.

Crossroads not equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

Visually impaired pedestrians rely on the flow of traffic and stay alert while cars drive ahead. As soon as the cars parallel to them enter the lane, they know they can cross. Without sustained traffic that allows blind people to be guided, and in the absence of Accessible Pedestrian Signals, blind people are without landmarks.

 “You have to be aggressive and go fast so that the cars let us pass. Some turn right without seeing us. Sometimes I prefer to change my path, ” said Mr. Croisetière, a blind pedestrian.

Roundabouts

Roundabouts are a source of concern in Montreal because they are not accessible and do not allow a person with a visual impairment to cross safely.

 

Montreal Vision Zero 2019 commitments for pedestrian safety

Due to its high density, downtown Montreal is one of the areas where pedestrian and vehicle collisions occur most frequently. In 2017, 15 pedestrians were killed in a traffic collision and 5058 others were injured. In 35% of cases, the vehicle did not give way to the pedestrian.

The most vulnerable people to these road accidents are people with disabilities especially blind and low vision people. The integration and social participation of people with visual disabilities are inseparable from the concept of mobility. That’s why road safety issues are to be tackled and fixed.

The city of Montreal is part of the global Vision Zero plan that aims at reducing the number of serious injuries and road deaths on the roads. In its 2019-2021 action plan published on the Montreal Vision Zero website, the city is committed to better integrate the needs of vulnerable users into the design and programming of traffic signals.

These commitments translate into two major axes:

⊗ Facilitate the crossing at complex and busy intersections by deploying the most suitable measures like Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS);

⊗ Install traffic lights with pedestrian-only phases at intersections near schools and seniors’ residences.

As an example of initiative, the Metropolitan Montreal Blind and Amblyopic Cluster (RAAMM) and the Montreal-based Nazareth and Louis Braille Institute (INLB) are collaborating with the City of Montreal on the implementation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). The goal of this partnership is to make intersections accessible and safe, and APS installation required at complex intersections, including intersections with pedestrian exclusive phases.

In line with this ambitious policy, the Planning and Mobility Department of Montreal has published similar objectives for 2019, namely street and intersection planning in order to ensure pedestrian safety of the most vulnerable like seniors, young people, children and people with disability.

Going further with pedestrian safety for blind people

Because road’s accessibility can always be improved, the RAAQ has presented various considerations to be taken into account to ensure safety of people with visual impairments when crossing the road in Montreal. The RAAQ is a non-profit organization that aims to promote the application of universal accessibility principles from the design stage of products and services.

These considerations include:

⊗ Integration of the APS functionality from design stage of traffic lights;

⊗ Prohibition of the right turn when the traffic light is red where the installation of an APS is recommended by a specialist in orientation and mobility; 

⊗ Promotional campaigns and appropriate regulations to ensure the smooth implementation of APS;

⊗ Complete isolation of bike lanes from walking areas to avoid collisions;

⊗ Prohibition of bicycles on sidewalks;

⊗ Prohibition of bicycles tied up to a tree or a pole that are sources of danger;

⊗ Maintenance and respect of the impossibility to turn right when the light is red;

⊗ Obligation for electric vehicles to make a noise that can not be confused with other ambient noise;

⊗ Impossibility for the drivers to deactivate the noise;

⊗ Roundabouts suspension where pedestrian traffic is high.

APS are therefore central in pedestrian safety measures.

However only 9% of intersections equipped with traffic signals are equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals. For detailed information about the benefits of APS, you can refer to our article : How do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

In 2017, the RAAMM released a report on the operation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals in Montreal. This report underscored that 35 of the 200 APS citywide units were partially or completely deficient.

The City of Montreal’s liability for these assets is total and does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Government of Quebec or Canada. The city is therefore responsible for installing new devices and maintaining them.

 

Many road layouts in Montreal are causing problem for visually impaired people to move safely. Vision Zero program offers great opportunities in terms of pedestrian safety but must also take into account the recommendations made by local associations that include more APS implementation.

By designing for the most vulnerable users and taking into account the diversity of their needs, the City of Montreal will build a system safe for all users.

Find out about Montreal APS regulation in our last article!

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The city of Montreal is part of the global Vision Zero plan that aims at reducing the number of serious injuries and road deaths on the roads. In its 2019-2021 action plan (…) the city is committed to better integrate the needs of vulnerable users into the design and programming of traffic signals.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

Everything You Need to Know about Accessible Pedestrian Signals Regulation in New York City

Everything You Need to Know about Accessible Pedestrian Signals Regulation in New York City

Everything You Need to Know about Accessible Pedestrian Signals Regulation in New York City

 

Summary

Local requirements are to install 75 new Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) every year in New York City. Vision Zero and Pedestrian Safety Action Plans are setting the bar even higher by planning on installing 150 new APS units per year in 2019 and 2020, doubling APS local requirement.

In compliance with the American with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA) federal standards, these new devices must equip all newly constructed intersections equipped with pedestrian signals or pedestrian facilities undergoing construction activity.

However, in practice certain criteria must be fulfilled for their implementation including requests from the blind and low-vision community, frequency of use etc.

The remaining APS installation locations provided by the law are based on engineering studies to prioritize their installation.

The Americans with Disability Act, 1990 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act from 1973 is one of the first American law offering protection for people with disabilities. This legislation required nondiscrimination in all programs, services, and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

In 1990, the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) for state and local governments has extended the Rehabilitation Act to newly constructed or altered public facilities regardless of the funding source.

The ADA requires these facilities to be accessible to individuals:

Each facility or part of a facility constructed by, on behalf of, or for the use of a public entity shall be designed and constructed in such manner that the facility or part of the facility is readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities, if the construction was commenced after January 26, 1992.”

All local laws must comply with ADA standards.

Proposed Accessibility Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities in the Public Right of Way (PROWAG) 

The Guidelines proposed by The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board in 2011 play an important part in the implementation of the laws that require newly constructed and altered facilities to be accessible to individuals with the ADA.

The PROWAG ensure that “pedestrian signals, including requirements for accessible pedestrian signals and pedestrian pushbuttons’ located in the public right-of-way are readily accessible and usable by pedestrians with disabilities.”

The guidelines are the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) standards.

The National Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices 

The National Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) from 2009 part 4 on Highway Traffic Signals Section 4E.09 states that “The installation of accessible pedestrian signals (…) should be based on an engineering study, which should consider the following factors: 

  1. Potential demand for accessible pedestrian signals; 
  2. A request for accessible pedestrian signals; 
  3. Traffic volumes during times when pedestrians might be present; 
  4. The complexity of intersection geometry (from the pedestrian point of view);
  5. The complexity of traffic signal phasing.

When used, accessible pedestrian signals shall be used in combination with pedestrian signal timing. The information provided by an accessible pedestrian signal shall clearly indicate which pedestrian crossing is served by each device.

Accessible pedestrian signal detectors may be pushbuttons or passive detection devices.

Accessible pedestrian signals are typically integrated into the pedestrian detector (pushbutton), so the audible tones and/or messages come from the pushbutton housing. They have a pushbutton locator tone and tactile arrow, and can include audible beaconing and other special features.

The name of the street to be crossed may also be provided in accessible format, such as Braille or raised print. Tactile maps of crosswalks may also be provided.

At accessible pedestrian signal locations where pedestrian pushbuttons are used, each pushbutton shall activate both the walk interval and the accessible pedestrian signals.

Pushbuttons for accessible pedestrian signals should be located as follows:

⊗ Adjacent to a level all-weather surface to provide access from a wheelchair, and where there is an all-weather surface, wheelchair accessible route to the ramp; 

⊗ Within 1.5 m (5 ft) of the crosswalk extended;

⊗ Within 3 m (10 ft) of the ,edge of the curb, shoulder, or pavement; 

⊗ Parallel to the crosswalk to be used.”

Highway Design Manual from New York State Department of Transportation

Local Highway Design Manual (HDM) from April 26, 2017 chapter 18 section 18.6.1:Pedestrian Facility Design under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that:

“Federal regulations direct that pedestrian safety considerations, including installation of APS at street crossings be included, where appropriate.”

However, a National Cooperative Highway Research Program Project 3-62  research recognizes that the types of APS used in the United States are not entirely adequate. 

Decisions to use pedestrian APS to assist blind and vision-impaired pedestrians should thus result from “effective communications” with individuals, groups, or organizations and should be based on the following: 

⊗ Request(s) from blind, vision-impaired individuals or organizations that represent them,

⊗ The frequency or likelihood of use by blind or vision-impaired pedestrians,

⊗ The proximities to transit stops, government offices, medical facilities, places of employment, shopping, places that provide services to blind and/or other vision impaired persons,

⊗ Motor vehicle traffic conditions (e.g., volumes, speeds, vehicle mix, peaks, lulls, etc.), proximity to other accessible crossings,

⊗ Special, unique, or unusual conditions such as motorists’ inability to clearly see pedestrians who are waiting to cross at intersections (e.g., obstructions, curved approaches, parking lanes).

The manual also highlights the benefits to involve an Orientation and Mobility Specialist (O&M) who teaches blind and other vision-impaired pedestrians how to navigate safely and independently in the streets. These people are usually familiar with traffic control devices such as APS and can teach them how to use them.

Local laws of New York

As codified in NYC Administrative Code Section 19-188, Local Law 21 of 2012 stated that 25 intersections each year had to be equipped with new APS units. Effective in January 2016, the new Local Law 60 of 2014 now requires 75 intersections to be equipped each year. Starting in 2019, NYCDOT plans to install APS at 150 locations per year for the next 2 years, doubling APS installations annually.

New York City Administrative Code 19-188 codifies the installation of APS in the city. An Accessible Pedestrian Signals Program has been drawn up to establish the procedure to follow:

  1. the department shall identify intersections where accessible pedestrian signals may be installed based on guidelines;
  2. the department, after consultation with the mayor’s office for people with disabilities and with advocates for and members of the visually impaired community, shall identify intersections which reflect the greatest crossing difficulty for persons with visual impairments;
  3. the department shall annually install, based on such guidelines, an accessible pedestrian signal at 75 intersections identified by the department following such consultation;
  4. the department shall post on its website a report analyzing the status of the accessible pedestrian signals program; 
  5. the department shall post on its website the locations of all accessible pedestrian signals.

New York City Pedestrian Safety and Vision Zero Action Plan

In order to improve pedestrian safety in New York City, the Department of Transportation has developed a Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP) released in June 2016. The plan advises without requiring to replace non-compliant pedestrian signals with APS at intersections.

NYCDOT has issued a Traffic and Mobility Instruction 15-01 (TSMI) in June 2015 on the “Applicability of Americans with Disability Act Guidelines on Traffic Signals”. This instruction provides general direction and specific policy regarding ADA requirements at signalized intersections. Another more recent TSMI 17-02 revised in September 2017 describes the “Applicability of Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines to Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP) countermeasures”. The instruction states that the installation of APS is only applicable to ADA standards when the sidewalk is disturbed.

Additionality, Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to increase pedestrian safety includes the installation of APS devices and is seeking for new technology solutions to help blind and low-vision people cross the street safely. The city has launched a Call for Innovation last year. The winner, a french-based company Okeenea will soon test its solution on the intersection of the West 23rd Stret and 7th Avenue, in Manhattan.

Are New York City crosswalks safe for blind people to cross? Find the answser in our article!

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The ADA requires Accessible Pedestrian Signals to be accessible to all individuals

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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powered by okeenea

The French leading company

on the accessibility market.

For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.

New York City Accessibility : Are Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Blind People?

New York City Accessibility : Are Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Blind People?

New York City Accessibility: Are Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Blind People?

 

There are over 200,000 people living with vision loss in New York City. In addition, thousands of blind tourists are trampling the Big Apple’s 6372 miles of pavements every year. If avoiding unexpected obstacles, understanding the streets complexity or make one’s way through crowded pedestrian crossings is difficult for everyone, it is an even bigger challenge for visually impaired and blind people.

What are the typical situations the blind and low vision community face on their daily lives when crossing the street? And what commitments have been made by the city to address safety concerns? You will find all the answers in this article.

 

Pedestrian crossings in New York City: situation analysis

Dangers and challenges for blind pedestrians while crossing the street

Daily routes of the blind and low vision community are often exposed to danger and great challenges. Pedestrians with low vision often rely on audio cues to know when it is safe to cross. In the mid-1990’s, a new type of pushbutton-type Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) began to be available in the U.S allowing safe crossing for visually impaired and blind people.

Today only 2% of the intersections are equipped with APS in New York City with only 75 intersections being equipped each year. When failing to function or when the intersection is not equipped, pedestrians have to rely on traffic flow sounds to cross which can lead to serious injury or death hazard.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of special precautions they have to take at pedestrian crossings to avoid unfortunate consequences when crossing intersections without the help of an APS:

⊗ Maintain a trajectory while taking into account long distance crossings, interfering noises or crossings non compliant with ADA regulations,

⊗ Concentrate constantly to listen to the traffic in order to know when to cross,

⊗ Be highly reactive during the WALK interval,

⊗ Focus on the detectable warning surfaces, truncated domes indicators and tactile paving that alert when edges of pavements are reached and lead pedestrians towards safe crossing places, 

⊗ Protect oneself from vehicles exceeding speed limit and distracted drivers,

⊗ Protect oneself from other mode of transports like bikes and electric scooters,

⊗ Avoid pedestrian flow,

⊗ Mind vehicles parked at intersections,

⊗ Deal with well-intentioned drivers or passers-by who want to help but who are creating unintended danger,

⊗ Avoid collision with left-turning motorists during the WALK interval.

What are the different intersection designs with crossing difficulty in New York City?

There are three main intersection types in New York City which present a crossing difficulty:

⊗ Intersections with Leading Pedestrian Intervals (LPI): when pressing the crosswalk button, pedestrians are given a 3 to 7 seconds head start that enhances their visibility and reinforces their right-of-way over turning vehicles,

⊗ Delayed turns (split LPI) : builds on the same operating mode as the Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI). This design provides a conflict-free head start for pedestrians first and then for bicyclists before turning drivers are allowed to proceed,

⊗ Exclusive Pedestrian Phases (EPP) such as Barnes Dance and mid-block locations: this type of intersection stops all vehicle allowing pedestrians to cross in every direction at the same time.

Vision Zero: New York City’s bold commitment to improve pedestrian safety at crossings

The city of New York is a city with heavy traffic and complicated intersections. As a result, the risk of danger is greater than in smaller cities. In 2013 the total number of road fatalities in New York amounted to 299. In 2017, four years after the creation of the Vision Zero Program, the total number of fatalities on the roads went down to 214, a decrease of 28%. This drop is driven by the implementation of an ambitious policy of road improvements aiming at promoting cyclist and pedestrian safety in the streets of New York: the Vision Zero Action Plan.

The three focus areas of the project are the speed vehicles reduction, the walking and cycling incentive and the accessibility of urban spaces to all regardless of age or disability. The ultimate goal being the reduction of accidents and fatalities on the roads.

For this purpose, the City of New York has partnered with the Department of Transport to roll out a standardized procedure for road maintenance that includes 8 street elements that directly impact the safety of visually impaired people when crossing the street:

  1. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act: perpendicular curb ramps, sufficient time to cross the road and raised crosswalks,
  2. Public amenities: wayfinding, bus shelters, benches and greenery improving the walking experience for blind pedestrians,
  3. Protected bike lanes to help better identify the different traffic flows for blind pedestrians,
  4. Narrow vehicle lanes to reduce speeding and increase pedestrian safety,
  5. Pedestrian islands: impassable refuges that improve pedestrian safety on dangerous axis and allow pedestrian to cross in two times,
  6. Wide unobstructed sidewalks to avoid collision,
  7. Signal-Protected Pedestrian Crossings to give pedestrians exclusive crossing time, reduce turning conflicts and secure crossing for low vision and blind pedestrian with the installation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) devices,
  8. Dedicated unloading zone to reduce double-parking and collision when crossing.

“Vision Zero is working. We have lowered the speed limit, increased enforcement and created safer street designs, efforts that build on each other to help keep New Yorkers safe” said New York City’s Mayor de Blasio

Vision Zero view’s website allows everyone to see how many accidents have occurred according to street designs and speed limit. The full Vision Zero four year report is also public and informs about all statistics and metrics of the results of the program.

Focus on Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) in New York City

A blind person needs to compensate for the lack of vision when crossing the road. Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) provide audible information about the WALK and DON’T WALK interval allowing blind and low vision pedestrians to cross the street safely and independently. The New York City Department of Transportation’s (NYCDOT) commitments include implementing APS units to provide accessibility for all New Yorkers. This device has proven its worth to meet safety needs of the blind and low-vision community and thus fulfill the objectives of Vision Zero action plan.

APS in New York: state of play

According to New York City’s Department of Transport Accessible Pedestrian Signals program status report of December 2018, 75 Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) units are installed every year following the requirements of Local Law 60 of 2014. As of December 31, 2018, 371 APS units were installed citywide.

Starting in 2019, New York City is planning on installing for the next two years 150 new APS units per year, doubling APS local requirements in 2019 and 2020.

A list of all Accessible Pedestrian Signals locations in New York is available.

With thousands of traffic lights citywide, we can yet legitimately question the city’s commitment to blind pedestrian safety. Lawsuits have even been filed alleging “that the city is violating the rights of the visually impaired by failing to update most of the city’s crosswalks with accessible pedestrians signals (…)”.

The Pedestrians for Accessible and Safe Streets (PASS) Coalition’s mission is to ensure that blind and visually impaired have full access to New York streets. One of their main actions is to push for the inclusion of APS in the Vision Zero blueprint.

APS system at pedestrian crossings in New York: now and tomorrow

The actual APS system that can be found at 371 intersections citywide features a distinct rapid ticking tone that can be adjusted. A raised vibrating tactile arrow is located next to the pushbutton to indicate in which direction to cross. These devices can be found next to pedestrian crossing ramps in order to clarify which APS unit is for which crossing. When pushing the button, the arrow vibrates and an audible “walk” message or a rapid ticking tone is displayed corresponding to the respective WALK and DON’T WALK intervals.

However, this facility has faced criticisms from users and residents in recent years mainly due to noise pollution, ambiguous indications and the lack of information about the location of the pushbutton.

In order to improve its services to citizens, the NYCDOT is currently involved in a multi-year contract with the University Transportation Research Center (UTRC) in order to conduct research in pedestrian safety. The aim of this research is to understand how new technologies can meet the objectives of Vision Zero plan.

NYCDOT is also counting on the French-based company Okeenea winner of a Call for Innovations to enhance mobility for the blind and low vision community in the city. The winning solution is now developing technologies to protect pedestrians with vision loss when crossing the road using intelligent transportation system (ITS) solution. You will soon be able to test the solution on the intersection of the West 23rd Stret and 7th Avenue, in Manhattan. If the tests are conclusive, intelligent devices providing information on street names being crossed and other real-time information preventing potential dangers will be installed citywide.

 

Being the third most congested city in the world with 14,460 traffic intersections, the safety issue in New York is strong for pedestrians. With the implementation of Vision Zero action plan and the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation (MOTI) ongoing efforts to turn New York into a smart city, the metropolis is setting high standards in terms of pedestrian safety.

However, many more efforts are still expected to make it easy and safe for people with disabilities to navigate the streets. New York has a great potential to design a state-of-art inclusive smart city, but will the city be able to match its ambition and shine on the world stage?

What are New York City APS regulations? Find all you need to know in our article!

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Starting in 2019, New York City is planning on installing for the next two years 150 new APS units per year, doubling APS local requirements in 2019 and 2020.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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For more than 25 years, we have been developing architectural access solutions for buildings and streets. Everyday, we rethink today’s cities to transform them in smart cities accessible to everyone.

By creating solutions ever more tailored to the needs of people with disabilities, we push the limits, constantly improve the urban life and make the cities more enjoyable for the growing majority.