The Crosswalk: Thousands of Years of Evolution

The Crosswalk: Thousands of Years of Evolution

A crosswalk with black and white stripes used by a lot of pedestrians

The Crosswalk: Thousands of Years of Evolution

Do you know how many crosswalks are located near your home or your workplace? Do you even pay attention to them? They help us cross the street and yet, they’re invisible to us. 

But there’s more than meets the eye. Especially when we go back to Antiquity. At a time when the city of Pompeii was still a city, the first crosswalk emerged. 

Impressed yet? Wait until you see how innovating the crosswalk can be nowadays. Here, we’ll focus solely on crosswalks at signalized intersections so let’s cross the road together for a time travel across the ages. You’ll never use a crosswalk the same way as before… 

What is a crosswalk?

A crosswalk, also known as a pedestrian crossing in the UK, designates a place where pedestrians can cross the street or the road. 

It can be paved or marked to indicate pedestrians have the right-of-way. This means vehicles stop to let them cross with safety. 

What does it look like?

There’s a particularity for crosswalks in the United States: they may be marked with white stripes or not. It depends on the cities as there’s no specific regulation regarding this aspect. 

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides two main methods for marked crosswalks:

Two parallel white lines from one side of the road to the other. The width of the lines goes from 12 to 14 inches. A stop line across lanes going into the intersection to indicate vehicles where they have to stop.

Continental stripes that look like the zebra crossings in the UK: several bars across the crosswalk from 12 to 24 inches wide. The stripes are also 12 to 24 inches apart.

These marked crosswalks represent the common ones you may have encountered in the U.S. but what did they look like when they first emerged? 

The birth of the first crosswalk

Let’s put a foot in history, a history that happened more than 2000 years ago in the ancient city of Pompeii, more precisely before the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79.

Now the ruins of Pompeii near Naples, Italy attract thousands of tourists every year who want to see what Roman life looked like. But they overlook the first ever crosswalk created.

It consisted of blocks raised on the road. Pedestrians could cross the street without having to walk onto the road itself. These blocks were implemented across the whole city enabling pedestrians to reach the streets from a sidewalk to the other. Thanks to the spaces between the blocks, horse-drawn carts could easily come and go.

1869: the failure of the first pedestrian crossing signal

Another introduction to the crosswalk appeared in December 1868 along with the first traffic lights at Parliament Square in London. 

Railroad engineer John Peake Knight came up with an innovative idea to allow pedestrians to cross this busy part of the square: two mobile signs attached to semaphore arms that were manually lowered by a policeman. They could signal the amplified red and green coloured gas lights.

But in January 1869, the gaslight exploded, killing the policeman who manipulated the semaphore arms. The tragedy put an end at the development of crosswalks and traffic lights.

The 1930s: an attempt to provide more safety to pedestrians

In the 1930s, both the United States and the United Kingdom tried to control traffic and the safety of pedestrians. More and more cars were on the roads creating more and more accidents.

Both countries tested various designs but not one in particular stuck. For example, the UK used metal studs in the road and poles on the side. These metal studs marked the crosswalk for pedestrians who could easily spot them. But it wasn’t the case for drivers. They could only feel the raised studs once their car was on them. This means it was too late for them to slow down or stop.

1951: the zebra crossing becomes the norm across the world

The first zebra crossing was implemented in October 1951 in Slough, England. After experimenting with several designs, the black and white stripes proved to be efficient: they could be easily seen by drivers and pedestrians alike from afar. High contrasting colors such as black and white also help pedestrians with low vision find the crosswalk and align to cross.

Countries all over the world have chosen the zebra crossing. They may have different variations though. But they all agree the black and white stripes ensure the safety of pedestrians. 

How can crosswalks evolve?

It’s not because black and white stripes have spread throughout the world that crosswalks can’t evolve. Especially when the safety of pedestrians is at stake.

Cities experiment with new technologies to secure crosswalks for all road users. 

3D crosswalks

An optical illusion that makes it look like the painted crosswalk is raised. The goal of 3D crosswalks is to make motorists slow down when they spot them. 

Different countries implement this creative solution: the UK, Germany, China, India and the U.S…

Crosswalk lighting

You may encounter different systems of lighting:

An embedded flashing-light system or an in-pavement flashing-light system: LED lights warn motorists that pedestrians are crossing the crosswalk. They start flashing thanks to a motion detection device. This means they’re activated as soon as a pedestrian walks up to the crosswalk.

Overhead crosswalk lights: streetlights mounted above the road so that at night time drivers can perfectly see the crosswalk. And most of all if a pedestrian is crossing. A uniform and bright light that provides better visibility and consequently, safety.

Countdown timers

A lot of countries use countdown timers for both pedestrians and motorists to know when the red signal for pedestrians will be on. 

In the United States, countdown timers have been a mandatory feature since the MUTCD’s 2009 edition. But in France, they’re only beginning to be implemented. 

Although this solution enables the safety of road users, for blind and visually impaired people countdown timers can’t help them cross the street. That’s why accessible pedestrian signals remain essential for their mobility.

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

From what we’ve seen, safety could be the key word to describe a crosswalk. As pedestrians, we all are vulnerable when we cross the street but we may not always be aware of it. With new technologies and new ways of conceiving roadways, pedestrian safety represents a commitment for many cities. How does your city fare about its crosswalks?

Want to know more about pedestrian safety? Check out these articles:

Vision Zero: a Revolutionary Approach to Road Safety

How to Make Shared Streets Truly Shared By All?

Blind and Visually Impaired Pedestrians: What Are Their Difficulties When Crossing the Street?

Smombies: the New Safety Challenge for Cities in the 21st Century

Published on September 23rd, 2022

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A crosswalk called zebra crossing in the UK

The first zebra crossing was implemented in October 1951 in Slough, England. After experimenting with several designs, the black and white stripes proved to be efficient: they could be easily seen by drivers and pedestrians alike from afar.

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Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager & Copywriter

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The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals  Table of contents What are accessible pedestrian signals?Why do cities have accessible pedestrian signals?Who are APS for?How do audible traffic signals work exactly?What is pedestrian detection?Why are...

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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.

How to Create a Smart City for Deaf and Hearing Impaired People?

How to Create a Smart City for Deaf and Hearing Impaired People?

People walking in the streets of New York City

How to Create a Smart City for Deaf and Hearing Impaired People?

 

Is it challenging for a smart city to be accessible for deaf and hearing impaired people? Yes and no.

It is challenging in the sense that a smart city that meets the needs of the deaf community fosters inclusion. The concern is broad. But it’s not that complex to implement. 

From the conception of your smart city, take into account the difficulties met by people with hearing impairments. The smart city is the future. It needs to be exemplary in terms of accessibility.

Let’s see what an accessible smart city looks like for the deaf and hard of hearing and for you as well as decision maker.

What is a smart city?

Putting people first thanks to the use of technology. That’s how we could define what a smart city is.

It relies on information and communication technology (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect residents with their city.

This means a smart city serves its people. It collects data and information from people, transportation, devices and buildings. Everything that enables a smart city to improve its operational services.

That’s what makes people’s lives easier. And we can even go further by ensuring the smart city is accessible for deaf and hearing impaired people. 

The deaf community needs to easily access information on public transportation, real-time traffic… A smart city represents the perfect opportunity to foster inclusion.

What solutions can you find in a smart city for deaf and hearing impaired people?

The question could also be: what do deaf and hard of hearing people need to fully enjoy their city? Let’s take a closer look at their struggles in a regular city and the solutions that can be found in a smart one:

Difficulties of the hearing impaired

Solutions for an accessible smart city

Accessing real-time information on public transit: it may only be available through audio.

The MaaS platform: it regroups all modes of public transit at the disposal of users. Deaf and hearing impaired people can plan their trip according to their preferences. 

Having real-time traffic information on buses

Smart urban furniture like smart benches where users can charge their phones and get free WiFi. If installed at a bus stop, deaf and hard of hearing people can access real-time information about the bus timetables.

Having real-time traffic information when driving

A GPS with real-time traffic updates like Garmin or TomTom.

Finding their way in a complex venue like a shopping mall or a public transport network: they may lack visual signage.

An indoor navigation app like Evelity can help them find their bearings. The app adapts to the user’s profile. Deaf and hard of hearing people have text instructions.

Communicating with hearing employees: the venue may not have audio induction loops and the staff may lack training in knowing how to interact with deaf or hard of hearing people. 

An instant transcription app like Ava: the conversation is transcribed for deaf people who don’t have to lip-read.

A live transcription app for phone calls like RogerVoice: when phoning a venue to make enquiries, people with hearing impairments receive a typed text of what the other person is saying. They can reply thanks to voice synthesis.

Of course, there are solutions to conceive a smart city that meets the needs of different categories of people like smart buildings.

These smart infrastructures aim at enhancing the user experience. From their conception, everything is designed to meet the needs of people: the elderly, people with disabilities with various capabilities… 

Just like a smart city, smart buildings collect and share data for users. Deaf and hearing impaired people can easily have access to any information within a smart building. Especially since they rely on phygital to provide universal accessibility.

Check out more information about smart buildings:

The 5 Keys of Tomorrow’s Smart Building 

As you can see, the most important challenge for a smart city to be accessible and inclusive for deaf and hearing impaired people is to maintain the chain of information at all times.

A smart city is molded to suit its residents. Even though technology is at its center, it’s managed and controlled by humans. It’s at the service of deaf and hard of hearing people and ensures accessibility.

Why should you focus on an accessible smart city for deaf and hard of hearing people?

You want a smarter, better and more efficient city? Then focusing on conceiving an accessible smart city is the best way to achieve it.

There are many benefits in creating a smart city fit for deaf and hearing impaired people:

Your city works as an ally: a smart city easily removes accessibility barriers like accessing information for the deaf community.

Your city is at the forefront of inclusion: keep in mind inclusion is not a trend. It’s meant to stay. What you implement has a purpose and truly makes a difference.

Your city is more effective thanks to data collection: you can analyze different types of information regarding the operational services of your smart city. This means you can know how deaf and hearing impaired people get around and what they need to make their lives easier.

Your city invests in what benefits its residents: through data collection, you know where to inject your money. You can better spend your city’s budget on projects that truly meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing people. 

As you can see, the smart city you conceive can be accessible to the 48 million of deaf and hearing impaired people who live in the United States. Inclusive solutions regarding communication and information represent a true asset to put your city on the map. You have the opportunity to better serve different categories of people. It’s up to you to seize it.

Want to know more about the issues of the deaf community? Check out these articles:

12 Tips to Welcome a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Person

Hearing Impaired People: a Multitude of Profiles for Different Needs

5 Must-Have Apps for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People in 2022

Published on September 9th, 2022

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The tram of Cincinnati passing in the city

The most important challenge for a smart city to be accessible and inclusive for deaf and hearing impaired people is to maintain the chain of information at all times.

writer

Carole Martinez

Carole Martinez

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals

The Ultimate Guide to Accessible Pedestrian Signals  Table of contents What are accessible pedestrian signals?Why do cities have accessible pedestrian signals?Who are APS for?How do audible traffic signals work exactly?What is pedestrian detection?Why are...

NEVER miss the latest news about the Smart City.

Sign up now for our newsletter.

Unsubscribe in one click. The information collected is confidential and kept safe.

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.