France vs Quebec: How Do Accessible Pedestrian Signals Work Across the Atlantic?

France vs Quebec: How Do Accessible Pedestrian Signals Work Across the Atlantic?

France vs Quebec: How Do Accessible Pedestrian Signals Work Across the Atlantic?

 

On both sides of the Atlantic, accessible pedestrian signals allow blind or visually impaired people to know when is the right time to cross the street. But the regulations and technical features of these devices vary from country to country. 

Let’s take stock of the differences, advantages and disadvantages of each system in France and Quebec.

 

Common feature: Accessible Pedestrian Signals are the responsibility of cities

 

Whether in France or in Canada, it is the local administration that is in charge of the equipment of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). The government is only setting the obligations, standards and guidelines to follow.

In France, the equipment obligations stem from the Disability Act of 11 February 2005, which states:

“The transport chain, which includes the built environment, roads, public spaces, transport systems and their intermodality, is organized to be accessible to people with disabilities or reduced mobility.”

Disability Act of February 11, 2005

In Quebec, since 21 June 2019, the reference text is the Accessible Canada Act – An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada. One of its founding principles is that: “all persons must have barrier-free access to full and equal participation in society, regardless of their disabilities”.

Mandatory norm vs guidelines

Paris has 1,770 signalised intersections, of which over 11,000 traffic lights have already been equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). On the other side of the Atlantic in Montreal, there are 2,300 signalised intersections, and only 200 are equipped to help blind pedestrians cross the road. The city intends to improve this situation in the coming years, but these figures show that the incentive does not have as much impact as the legal obligation.

The technical characteristics of French APS are described in the NF S32-002 standard intended for the use of the blind or visually impaired persons published in 2004. A decree of 2006 makes it compulsory to bring up to this standard all new installations and whenever road work is carried out on a crossroad.

In Canada, there is no standard per se, but “Guidelines for Understanding, Use and Implementation of Accessible Pedestrian Signals” published in 2008. The installation of new APS is subject of a prioritization according to well-defined criteria:

⊗ User requests,

⊗ Configuration of the crossroad and complexity of pedestrian crossings: width of streets, speed of vehicles…

⊗ Number of pedestrians, especially visually impaired pedestrians, potential users: proximity to poles generating travel, public transport…

⊗ Difficulty of crossing the street without the help of APS: complexity of traffic flows or lack of sound cues…

These prioritization criteria are intended to sort out user requests, which can not all be met due to limited budgets.

On demand activation

 

Most APS installed in Quebec operate permanently. On the walk phase, a melody is emitted throughout the entire phase. However, this system tends to disappear in favor of on demand activation, in order to limit noise pollution. 

On demand activation APS emit a short, regular and permanent location beep. This beep allows visually impaired people to locate the push button used to activate the audio message on the walk phase. Simply press this button briefly or keep it pressed until a confirmation beep is emitted.

In France, all APS operate by activation. And almost always, they are only activated using a standard remote control that blind or visually impaired people can get from their town hall or associations specializing in visual impairment. Only the city of Paris, because of its very strong tourist traffic, keeps the possibility of activating the APS by a push button fixed on the mast of the traffic light.

The push button allows anyone to activate the APS without the need for specific equipment. However, it represents a difficulty for blind people. They must first locate the pedestrian crossing, then look for the mast, which is sometimes several meters away from the crossing, and finally find the button. The activation by a remote control makes it possible to dispense with all these stages. Good practices exist to organize the distribution system of this essential tool. In addition, it is possible to transfer the functionality of the remote control to a smartphone.

Audio indications

 

According to Canadian guidelines, APS must play a melody when pedestrians are invited to cross the road. During the wait phase and the release phase, most signals are silent. The fixed white silhouette indicating it is safe to cross is indicated by a carillon on the East-West axes, and by the sound of the cuckoo on the North-South axes.

For long crossings, the sound is emitted alternately on both sides of the road, so that visually impaired pedestrians can keep their direction while crossing.

An audio message may be broadcast at the push button location during the wait phase indicating the name of the street and information on the geometry of the crossroads to facilitate the crossing. This measure is however optional.

The French standard, on the other hand, provides for 3 types of audio indications: the audio message “Don’t walk”, the walk start tone and the normal walk tone.

The “Don’t walk” message must always be completed with the name of the street. This allows a visually impaired person to confirm his position. This message is easily customizable thanks to the parameterization tools provided by the manufacturers.

The start of the walk tone consists of a series of characteristic notes easily audible in the ambient noise of the circulation. The normal walk tone is a unique melody described in the APS standards.

 

Additional information on the Canadian side

 

According to the Canadian guidelines, other indications can be added to improve the information and facilitate the orientation of the blind or visually impaired:

⊗ A sign indicating the instructions for use of the APS,

⊗ A tactile arrow indicating the direction of the crossing,

⊗ The name of the street in Braille and in relief,

⊗ A relief plan showing the number of lanes, the traffic directions, the orientation of curbs and the presence of refuge islands.

Despite their usefulness, these elements are rarely all present because of the work of personalization and the important cost they generate. Also remember that only 10 to 15% of blind people read braille and are able to decipher a map in relief. The tactile elements also cause hygiene problems.

However, there is a security measure in Canada that France should learn from. In case of activation of an APS, all vehicle have to come to a complete stop, including turning vehicles. People who are blind or visually impaired are therefore no longer at risk of having their path blocked by a vehicle.

In conclusion…

 

Both French and Canadian Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) have advantages in terms of safety and use. However, for lack of regulatory constraints, APS are not widely used in Quebec, much less in their full version, which best satisfies the use of blind and partially sighted people. 

It must be recognized that French standardization and equipment requirements have considerably boosted the industrialization of new generation of APS. These use advanced technologies in terms of activation, parameterization and maintenance for a very reasonable cost.

 

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Paris has 1,770 signalised intersections, of which over 11,000 traffic lights have already been equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS). In Montreal, there are 2,300 signalised intersections, and only 200 are equipped to help blind pedestrians cross the road.

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Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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London’s Policy for Accessible Pedestrian Crossings

London’s Policy for Accessible Pedestrian Crossings

London’s Policy for Accessible Pedestrian Crossings

 

The first traffic light appeared in London 150 years ago. Now Transport for London (TfL) has implemented more than 6,000 of these devices across the capital with audible signals for blind pedestrians. Despite the extensive network of public transportation, many Londoners still choose to drive a private vehicle to get around the city. To this traffic can be added cabs, trucks, cyclists, buses, coaches and all kinds of new urban means of transport like electric scooters. 

Considering that in 2017, 20,4% of road deaths in London were pedestrians and that 76% of collision happen at junctions, how do the 250,000 blind people living in the capital cope with road crossing?

The city of London has put in place a rather favorable policy for blind pedestrians but there is still room for significant improvement to guarantee safety for all.

Let’s take a look at the daily struggles of blind londoners and the commitments made by local authorities to reinforce pedestrian safety.

Crossings and the problems

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has carried out a survey in 2014 of over 500 blind and partially sighted people all over Great Britain including the City of London. This report sets out evidence which demonstrates how unsafe local neighbourhoods and the street environment can be for those with sight loss.

Here are the results of the survey concerning road crossing:

⊗ 55% of blind and partially sighted people said their local roads were unsafe: lack or dysfunction of tactile cones or audible signals, street obstacles like car parked in front of a crossing, lack of refugee islands etc.

⊗ 40% of people without sight loss also said their local roads were unsafe. 

⊗ 74% of blind and partially sighted people said that there was a need for more pedestrian crossings in their area. 

⊗ 67% face the inconvenience of having to take longer journeys in order to cross roads at safe pedestrian crossings.

⊗ Around half of local authorities couldn’t even provide information about the accessibility of the crossings they manage.

For existing pedestrian crossings, the main challenges that blind and low-vision people face are the lack of accessible facilities or their dysfunction. 

Other difficulties come from new developments in areas such as floating bus stops which can make it much harder for blind people to get about. Many can’t avoid using these areas, but 40% are either using the area less or avoiding it altogether.

Also removing crossings, kerbs and tactile paving can have a devastating impact. These are essential landmarks in the city to find one’s bearings. Without them, blind and partially sighted people are left on their own in an increasingly crowded and changing city.

Transport for London has issued a 2017 factsheet synthesizing all casualties in Greater London. The document shows that 6,652 pedestrians were involved in an accident, highlighting the increasing number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries, in particular those involving heavy and light goods vehicles.

For fear of dangerous hazards, some blind and partially sighted people rather avoid taking certain routes or even stay at home and suffer isolation as a result.

 “In my area we have floating bus stops. This is where they have introduced cycle lanes that continue straight forward even when a bus is at the stop. So the bus pulls in away from the kerb, and you walk across the cycle lane. I don’t know where they got the idea, but they are becoming very popular in London. I find it a nightmare when I’m on my own. I worry I could easily be hit by a cyclist.”

Mohammed’s experience (London – RNIB

This survey highlights four main problems that need to be taken into account by local authorities:

1. Lack of tactile and/or audible signals or lack of maintenance of such devices

2. Lack of zebra crossings and pelican crossings

3. Restrictive new street developments

4. Lack of staff training to provide information about accessible crossings

Crossing solutions and London’s commitments

London Vision Zero

The City of London has undertaken major changes to enhance road safety with the ultimate goal to eliminate all road hazards from London’s transport network by 2030.

 The Vision Zero action plan, launched in July 2018, is a direct answer to meet to reduce danger caused by vehicle journeys.

The plan focuses on four main areas:

⊗ Safe speeds limiting central London to 20mph limit and reducing speed limits at other locations to address areas of high road danger

⊗ Safe streets: more pleasant and safer junctions including wider footways, less street clutter, more accessible crossings, more visibility at junctions etc.

⊗ Safe vehicles: Bus Safety Standard for the city’s entire bus fleet and freight vehicles.

⊗ Safe behaviours: roads policy and enforcement raising standards for all drivers 

London pedestrian crossing urban facilities

The needs of disabled pedestrians like blind and low-vision people should be considered when designing the layout of crossings. If these are well provided then a better crossing will probably result for all users.

Tactile paving 

To ensure the safety of blind and partially sighted people at these sites it is important to provide tactile paving to the recommended layouts in Disability Unit Circular DUl/91.

Ground change is useful for a person using a long roller cane. For example the blister paving (uniform straight rows) used at a pedestrian crossing tells the user when to stop as the kerb is dropping.

In London there is a small amount of tactile paving used as a marker to flag up where the crossing is. It is called a ramped section Then near the road, there is a full lenght of the crossing equipped with blister paving to work out where the crossing is located. 

The ramped section is fitted with red blister surface at controlled crossings only and with yellow blister at uncontrolled crossings. Both use bright contrasting colors to better understand the nature of the crossing to come and are designed for partially sighted people. It may also be of benefit to sighted pedestrians and may emphasise the presence of a crossing to drivers. Recommendations for the design and use of tactile pavement are also detailed in Circular No. DU 1/91

Offset blister paving and lozenge shaped paving can also respectively be found at train and tram stations both indicating the platform edge. Corduroy paving are long strips of raised paving in rows with rounded edges warning of some hazard ahead like stairs. If there is a path that is half foot traffic and half for bicycles, directional stripes tell you which side is which.

Audible and tactile crossing signals

According to TfL, all of London’s pedestrian crossings are accessible, with tactile paving, audible signals and/or rotating cones on the pushbutton units.

At signal-controlled intersections audible signals or bleepers in the form of a pulsed tone and/or tactile signals are normally used during the green figure or “invitation to cross” period.

At staggered crossing, there is a risk that the signal at one crossing may be heard and mistaken for another and so the standard audible signal must not be used. The alternative is the ‘bleep and sweep’ tone. It has been specially designed to be distinctive. The audio level has been lowered down taking into account the ambient level in order to be heard only near the crossing in use.

If audible signals cannot be used for technical or physical reason (low vision and hearing difficulties) or if the crossing is not equipped, then tactile signals should always be provided. Often unknown by the general public, public cones can be of great use in a lot of different situations. They are activated by an electric motor that drives the cone in a rotating motion felt with the touch of the hand. It is usually implanted under the push button box to be protected from bad weather and dirt. These small cones rotate when the steady green figure is shown.

All the above devices, whether audible or tactile, must conform to TR 0141(5) including the requirements for lamp monitoring. Traffic Advisory Leaflet 4/91(11) gives further information.

Regarding audible and tactile crossing signal maintenance, the Mayor of London has declared in 2009 that all devices are checked, as a minimum, annually to ensure they are in good working order. Any defects identified during the inspection is rectified. All signals are equipped with a self-reporting functionality, however it cannot be applied to tactile cones and/or audible pedestrian crossing signals.

Transport for London relies on pedestrians to report any working defects affecting the good use for the devices.

 

More than half of blind and partially sighted English people find their crosswalks unsafe. And yet, the mayor of London says that all pedestrian crossings are accessible. Is it due to a maintenance problem? Behavior on the part of motorists? Or simply the technology used to make crossings accessible?

One certain thing is that the actual system is noisy and there is a real problem in residential areas where it is often shut down at night. Also the tactile cone is tricky to find and people who most need it often cannot find its location.

The Vision Zero program partly aims to answer this problem, but there is still some way to go to allow the 250,000 blind Londoners and thousands of tourists who come every day to enjoy the effervescence of the capital.

Here is all you need to know about accessible pedestrian signals regulation in London:

London’s Accessible Pedestrian Crossings: What Does the Law Say?

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“In my area we have floating bus stops (…) So the bus pulls in away from the kerb, and you walk across the cycle lane. I don’t know where they got the idea, but they are becoming very popular in London. I find it a nightmare when I’m on my own. I worry I could easily be hit by a cyclist.”

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

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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.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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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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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

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Pedestrian Safety: Are your Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Visually-Impaired and Blind People?

Pedestrian Safety: Are your Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Visually-Impaired and Blind People?

Pedestrian Safety: Are your Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Visually-Impaired and Blind People?

 

Have you ever paid attention to pedestrian crossings in your city? If some of you walk across them safely every day, for other people their life is at stake on each crossing. This article will help you better understand the issue that pedestrian crossings represent in terms of pedestrian safety especially for visually-impaired and blind people. You will never see your crosswalks in the same way again!

Why pedestrian safety is important?

We are all pedestrians. Virtually every trip begins and ends with walking even if you use public transport or your personal vehicle. According to the World Health Organizationmore than 270,000 pedestrians are killed on roads each year. Pedestrians constitute 22% of all road deaths. Moreover, millions of people become permanently disabled due to severe injuries caused by traffic-related crashes while they were walking. Road accidents, however, should not be considered inevitable as they are both predictable and preventable.

Moving safely ought to be a fundamental and inalienable right. It is an essential condition for the social participation of all. The feeling of insecurity causes the most vulnerable people to stay at home. This concerns children, the elderly and more generally all people with disabilities or reduced mobility. Moreover, walking should be promoted as an important mode of transport given its potential to improve health and preserve the environment.

Because they have social, psychological and physical consequences, pedestrian fatalities and injuries generate costs for society. It is difficult to estimate the economic impact of pedestrian road traffic crashes precisely, but road traffic crashes in general are evaluated between 1 and 2% of gross national product.

All around the World, dozens of leading cities have committed to Vision Zero with one strong objective: eliminating all traffic fatalities and severe injuries on roads. They have developed Vision Zero action plans which consist in identifying the most hazardous traffic areas, implementing new regulations, and redesigning safer streets.

Key risks to pedestrians are both related to driver behavior (speed, mobile phone use during driving, alcohol, drugs…) and infrastructure (lack of pedestrian facilities in roadway design, lack of visibility…).

Pedestrian crossing points are particularly dangerous because they include a large number of conflicts between pedestrians and other modes of transport: cars, busses, bikes, but also Personal Light Electric Vehicles (PLEVs), such as electric scooters, hoverboards, Segways, etc. Crossing streets safely is even more challenging for visually-Impaired and blind people.

How to improve pedestrian safety?

Pedestrian safety measures for visually-impaired and blind people

To travel independently, people with visual impairment mainly use auditory and tactual information. Some of them can use their remaining sight and are very sensitive to brightness contrast. Roadway design must take their needs into account to enable them to identify safe pedestrian paths, detect streets and know the proper time to cross. For further information about techniques visually-impaired and blind people use to travel safely, read our article: How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

Here are some tools that really improve the orientation and safety of people with visual disability:

⊗ Detectable warning surfaces or truncated domes are textured ground surface indicators which alert people when they reach the edges of pavements or steps. Detectable warning surfaces are particularly useful at lowered curbs when the sidewalk grade is equal to the grade of the street.

⊗ Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) help visually-impaired and blind people to identify the WALK interval at intersections. When well set up and positioned, accessible pedestrian signals are also helpful to locate crosswalks and maintain alignment while crossing.

⊗ Tactile paving can also be used to lead pedestrians with low vision towards safe crossing places. Guidance path surfaces are generally made of raised flat-topped bars that can be followed by walking on the surface or maintaining contact with a white cane. They indicate the right direction to cross the road.

⊗ Pedestrian crossings must contrast with the surrounding surface so that visually impaired people with remaining sight can see them. Zebra crossings with white stripes on a dark surrounding surface are mostly well recognized and recommended for their high visibility.

Other safety measures for all pedestrians

Visually-impaired and blind pedestrians also benefit from measures that are taken to improve the safety of all walkers. Pedestrian crossings are a major issue because there are pedestrian and vehicle conflict points. Road safety good practice can really improve the situation.

⊗ Motor vehicle speed is a major risk factor for road safety. Speed reduction has been proven to lower the number of pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Raised platforms, pavement narrowings, optical treatments, roundabouts are effective measures to reduce speed at intersections. However, it is important to keep markings and auditory clues for pedestrians with a visual impairment.

⊗ Simple measures can be taken to simplify crossing location, increase visibility between pedestrians and motorists, and shorten crossing distances. Concrete curb extensions, clearer intersection geometry, markings improvements pedestrian fencing and upgrading pedestrian ramps are among them.

⊗ Raised medians and pedestrian refuge islands allow pedestrians to cross one direction of traffic at a time. These make the crossing task much easier. Moreover, medians and refuge islands provide a space to install improve lighting which reduces the nighttime pedestrian fatalities on crosswalks. It is also important to install pedestrian signals with auditory systems on these islands.

⊗ Bike lanes should be separated from sidewalks using raised elements so that pedestrians do not fear any collisions.

⊗ Right-Turn-on-Red (RTOR) allows motorists to turn right on a red signal after stopping and yielding. While this measure may improve the traffic flow, it has increased pedestrian and bicyclist accidents. RTOR should be avoided as far as possible.

⊗ Parking areas, trees and street furniture that impede visibility at pedestrian crossings should be removed.

Is Montreal a Fit City for Blind People to Live in? Read our last article!

 

Pedestrian Safety: Major features and benefits of Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

 

What is an Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)?

Crossing the street when you are a blind person is a real challenge on a daily basis. Among the many existing solutions, Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) represent the best option to secure and facilitate the crossing for visually-impaired and blind people. An APS is an integrated device that sends an audio signal to indicate to pedestrians if they can cross the road safely. This device allows blind pedestrians to cross the road at the right time, more quickly and safely while maintaining their orientation throughout the crossing.

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) began to emerge in the 1970s in the United States and have since largely evolved to adapt to their environment and their users. APS are known by different names around the world such as: acoustic signals, audio-tactile signals, audible pedestrian signals, audible traffic signals, audible pedestrian traffic signals or audible crossing indicators.

From a legal point of view, the APS must comply with local laws of each country. In America, for example The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) states that pedestrian safety considerations should be included in new transportation plans and projects. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) includes guidance for APS installation, location and standards.

 

How Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) features improve pedestrian safety?

APS greatly contribute to securing the road network. The audio signal indicates the right moment to engage on a pedestrian crossing. Although listening to traffic flow is essential to avoid the risk of an accident, the acoustic signal makes decision-making a lot easier. By installing APS in your city, join the Vision Zero movement that has already conquered 250 cities around the world.

In addition to pedestrian safety, there are many other features and advantages that make APS an attractive solution for for both local decision-makers, installers and end-users:

⊗ Easy to install: APS are easy solutions to implement compared to road works to comply with accessibility requirements. In addition, the electronic card can be easily inserted into the pedestrian signal already installed,

⊗ Inexpensive: the overall cost ratio (maintenance, installation, purchase) compared to the functionalities provided is attractive,

⊗ Useful: in addition to the WALK/WAIT signal essential for blind pedestrians to know when to cross, some APS also indicate the names of parallel and perpendicular streets to better get their bearings,

⊗ Reducing noise pollution: recent APS offer an alternative to continuous noise by allowing the pedestrian to trigger the audio signal with a remote control on demand,

⊗ Customizable: some APS have been designed to adapt to the city and to users by modulating the sound volume according to the ambient noise. Other parameters may also be added depending on models.

As we know hearing is the first sense used to compensate for the lack of vision and visual and tactile cues to locate a pedestrian crossing are not enough. Therefore the use of an audio signal is essential. APS is also the ideal solution to compensate for the road installation defects and the lack of local safety measures by creating safe road environment for pedestrians and drivers.

 New York City Accessibility: Are Pedestrian Crossings Safe for Blind People? Read our last article!

Join the movement for a safe pedestrian environment and save thousands of lives every year. Investing in city-wide security is about saving lives and building a society in which everyone can find their place regardless of their disability or age. Let’s build together the inclusive city of tomorrow!

 

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It is difficult to estimate the economic impact of pedestrian road traffic crashes precisely, but they are evaluated between 1 and 2% of gross national product.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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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.

1868-2019: A Brief History of Traffic Lights

1868-2019: A Brief History of Traffic Lights

1868-2019: a Brief History of Traffic Lights

 

Red, green, yellow… three-color traffic lights are now a daily part of every person’s life. But it wasn’t always like that.

While their presence in city centers is now being questioned, they still fulfill an essential function by regulating the competing flows of traffic at an intersection.

Let’s take a look at a hundred and fifty years of history!

The First (Disastrous) Trial in England

December 10, 1868: the official birth date of the world’s first traffic light. It was installed at Parliament Square in London. The system was composed of two mobile signs attached to pivoting arms that were manipulated by a lever. The post was topped with a gas-lit semaphore to ensure visibility. But it was short-lived. Less than two months later, the traffic light exploded, killing the police officer who worked the signs.

The world had to wait 46 years until electricity use became widespread before the first dual-colored traffic light, using this new energy, was installed in Cleveland in the United States. Detroit and New York added yellow between red and green in 1920. The traffic lights that we now know were born and became the norm throughout the world.

1920-1930: Traffic Lights Up Europe 

In 1923, the first mechanical traffic light using electricity was installed in Paris at the intersection of Boulevard de Strasbourg and Grands Boulevards. Most of Europe’s largest cities soon followed suit: Berlin in 1924, Milan in 1925, Rome in 1926, London in 1927, Prague in 1928, Barcelona in 1930… And the system was exported to Tokyo in 1931.

 Accessible Pedestrian Signals: A Century of Change: read our last article!

Standardization and Regulation in the 1930s

The first Convention on the Unification of Road Signals was signed in Geneva on March 30, 1931. Its goal was to increase road traffic safety and facilitate international movement by road through a uniform system of road signals. The majority of signs that we recognize today were defined through this treaty. Traffic lights with three colors (red, yellow, green) became the standard.

Specific Lights for Pedestrians 

Pedestrian signals quickly appeared after the tri-colored traffic lights. At the start, they took various forms but matched the colors used by vehicles: red and green. Round, square or rectangular, they often gave the instruction “Wait” in red and “Walk” in green. In 1974, regulations introduced the figures that we know today, brought in because of a concern for foreign speakers and international standardization. However, the installation of pedestrian signals was initially overlooked due to their cost and their disputed usefulness. In Paris at least, since 1955, they have been systematically installed at the city’s intersections. 

Systematic Use of Traffic Lights Since 1950

Road traffic rose dramatically between 1950 and 1980, creating a need for an increasingly stricter regulation of traffic and the near ubiquitous use of traffic lights. In 2011, the largest French cities had an average of one traffic light-controlled intersection for every 1,000 inhabitants.

 

While they have long been considered the best solution for managing competing traffic flows, traffic lights are today suspected of fostering accident-prone behavior. This is the reason why many cities are reconsidering the systematic use of traffic lights and are preferring other methods for reducing the speed of vehicles. At the same time, they want to offer better circulation conditions for non-motorised mobility and public transportation. Out of this desire have emerged new light signals for giving these methods right of way. The issue today is to ensure that the most vulnerable road users remain safe and maintain their independence to travel in an environment whose points of reference are in flux.

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The world’s first traffic light (…) was short-lived. Less than two months later, the traffic light exploded, killing the police officer who worked the signs.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal AccessibilityWith 1.36 million passengers per day, the Montreal metro is the first network in Canada and the third in North America behind New York City and Mexico City. The network, which was inaugurated on October 14, 1966...

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned!

Invisible Disabilities: 80% of Disabled People Are Concerned! Having a disability = using a wheelchair. That’s one persisting cliché! Actually, only 2% of people with disabilities are wheelchair users but 80% have invisible disabilities! What we mean by “invisible...

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.