How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

How Do Blind People of Toronto Cross the Street Safely?

 

681,000 blind people have been identified in Ontario in 2007, making Ontario by far the province where the concentration of blind people is the strongest. Toronto – the leading City of the region – is committed to creating an accessible City to provide for dignity and independence of people with disabilities through different action plans.

We are therefore entitled to ask what solutions the City has implemented to allow blind people to cross the street safely and what uses come as a result.

The diversity of the needs and the constraints vary widely among the visually impaired community. Depending on how old the person was when the disability occurred, the mobility aid used (white cane, guide dog or nothing), eventual residual visual abilities, the mastery of technological tools, the presence of another disability, the knowledge of the city…, mobility approaches vary widely.

However certain mobility needs remain common. In this article, we will attempt to list the obstacles faced by visually impaired people when they cross the street in Toronto and talk about solutions to mitigate the problems encountered.

Visual impairment: 2 solutions to cross the street safely in Toronto

With 4,67% of its population living with blindness, Toronto remains a city where the implementation of accessibility facilities for the visually impaired is essential. 

Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS)

On June 16, 1994 the first audible signal was installed on the junction of Lawrence Avenue and Chatsworth Drive in Toronto.

The Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) also known as audible signal is “an integrated device that communicates information about the WALK and DON’T WALK intervals at signalized intersections in non-visual formats” (source : www.apsguide.org/). 

As of July 2019, out of the 3014 signalized intersections in Toronto, 999 of the major intersections are equipped with APS which represents 33,15% of the total signalized intersections, i.e, 2487 APS units in total. They have been rolled out little by little across the city in the last 25 years.

Back in the days, the first APS came on automatically, but due to noise complaints from people living or working nearby, push buttons have been introduced. Holding the button for three or more seconds sets off audible cues – chirping signals crossing is safe for east-west, cuckoo for north-south. The button also provides a vibro-tactile output, to alert pedestrians with both sight and hearing loss that the light has changed.

For more information about APS regulations in the City of Toronto, read this article.

Tactile paving

The bumpy surfaces located at the edge of the pavement are meant to warn people living with visual limitations when they are approaching danger such as a pedestrian crossing.

In the City of Toronto, tactile paving is relatively recent compared to APS system and was first tested out in a pilot program that ran for eight months between November 2012 and July 2013. It was based on guidelines from the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 that laid out new standards for the design of public spaces. The provincial regulations came into effect in 2013 requiring new constructions, built from 2016 onward, to include tactile walking surfaces. 

For the pilot project, tactile paving blocks made of different materials were installed at the four corners of the intersection of Shuter Street and Victoria Street, by St. Michael’s Hospital. They were tested for durability, cost, maintenance, and how much the bumpy surface would wear down over time. At the end of 2013, it was recommended that Toronto should use cast iron for its tactile walking surfaces.

Main difficulties encountered by blind people with road crossing

But why did these accessibility facilities first appeared? 25 years ago, visually impaired people only relied on their ears and their mobility aid (white cane or guide dog) to cross the road safely. 

On the one hand, the City of Toronto has developed a policy that is increasingly focused on the accessibility of people with disabilities. On the other hand, urban development and technological solutions have given rise to new accessibility problems.

Modern crossroads designs 

Most modern signalized intersections no longer allow people with visual limitations to cross the road by listening to the traffic flows.

Recent junctions in which the crossing times are adjusted to accommodate traffic flows, advance greens for turning vehicles, and leading pedestrian intervals, for example, mean that people who are blind cannot safely rely on the sound of moving traffic as an auditory cue to know when the light changes and they have the right of way.

APS push button actuation

Then came more and more APS to tackle this issue. But the introduction of push buttons lately has brought its own set of challenges for people living with visual impairments and all the other pedestrians.

Blind people of Toronto have been insisting over the years that it would be much simpler for them if the audible signal came on automatically and they didn’t have to find and press the button, but allowances have been made for the comfort of other residents of the city. Now at most major intersections, the APS is activated only when someone holds the button down for three seconds or more.

The implementation of push buttons has led to other problems. Indeed, this system is much more complicated to use than an automatic activation for many reasons.

Pole placement 

The push button being located to the left of the crossing – the same side the guide dog is – making it harder to reach. Once the button is located, it is then difficult to reorient in the direction of the crossing.

Also, despite Canadian National Institute for the Blind’s (CNIB) guidelines, taken from various standards and best practices, pole placement can be dramatically influenced by complex engineering or design considerations. The end result is an inconsistent and unpredictable placement of poles. This will require a pedestrian with sight loss to explore until they find the pole and locate the correct activation button. This can prove particularly daunting for someone who is blind and unfamiliar with the layout of an intersection.

Despite existing standards requiring that poles are located within 1.5m maximum distance between the pole and the curb, seasonal conditions, placement of sidewalk elements and other mitigating factors can result in poles being situated beyond a pedestrians easy reach.

Complexity of button design

Also, people with other physical disabilities may face difficulty pressing this button. Activating an APS via a push button requires a combination of reach, strength and dexterity. A large range of conditions can affect these abilities.

Noise pollution 

Moreover, the locator tone – the repeating sound enabling to locate the activation button – is often hard to hear because of the increasing noise pollution in Toronto. Indeed, the city has been experiencing great economic and demographic growth in these recent years, plunging the city into a degraded soundscape that prevents visually impaired people from hearing the locator tone easily.

Confusion with walk sign trigger

In December 2018, a new sign above APS actuation buttons have been introduced in Toronto stating “Button for audible signal only” in order to avoid confusion with the walk signal trigger by the sighted.

The reason the sign was added is because of the risk of confusion for the sighted with the button used to activate the walk signal. Indeed, the button design is exactly the same and sighted people have been wondering why their request had not been taken into account. The sign thus aims at avoiding any confusion. When both audible signal and walk signal coexist on the same pole, a tap or a hold on the button differentiates the request.

Rounded intersections

Regarding tactile paving, the blind community has pointed out their limit. When intersections are rounded, a visually impaired person cannot clearly determine where the edge is located. Thus, if the crossing is not equipped with an APS, the crossing may be much harder.

Wireless Pedestrian Systems

Both APS and tactile paving are of great use for blind pedestrian to ensure safety of their journey. However as seen above, these equipments have their limits which can be overcome with wireless Accessible Pedestrian Signals activated remotely with a personal hand-held device or a smartphone. In France for example, push button have be replaced a long time ago by personal activation using a remote control free for the user or a smartphone app.

In 2016, an Ottawa-based startup called Key2Access have patented their solution and tested it in Toronto. Two actuating modes are available both free for the end-user: the key fob button or the smartphone app. Either way, people using it do not have to go searching for the button by the side of the road. Key2Access is still a running pilot project in several cities in Canada but has not progressed to that stage yet in Toronto.

Another solution is aBeacon – a 3rd generation APS device – winner of the call for innovation of New York City’s Department of transportation. The system also gets triggered using a remote control or a smartphone app and provides a new kind of urban connectivity to facilitate maintenance. Additional features enhance the pedestrian experience by providing supplemental information such as street names, sidewalk closures or pending hazards.

 

Over the years the City of Toronto has implemented a rather advantageous policy that benefits the visually impaired. With more than 33% of signalized junctions equipped with APS and all new junctions with tactile paving, the city is among the most accessible Canadian city in this area. On the other hand, the presence of actuation button on Accessible Pedestrian Signals remains a strong stake that needs to be addressed to ensure safety and autonomy of people with visual limitations. 

Will the city soon respond to this problem? It is up to you to decide!

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Blind people of Toronto have been insisting over the years that it would be much simpler for them if the audible signal came on automatically and they didn’t have to find and press the button, but allowances have been made for the comfort of other residents of the city.

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Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

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We Need to Talk About Pedestrian Crossing’s Accessibility of San Francisco

We Need to Talk About Pedestrian Crossing’s Accessibility of San Francisco

We Need to Talk About Pedestrian Crossing’s Accessibility of San Francisco

 

Being a pedestrian in San Francisco is rough. In fact, it’s deadly. More vehicles than ever are on the road. Latest statistics show that 15 pedestrians were killed at an intersection in 2018. 55 were critically injured and 183 suffered severe injury from a motor vehicle. Pedestrians remain in proportion, particularly exposed road users but it is all the more true for blind and low vision people. In fact, have you ever wondered how do visually impaired people cross the road? 

If you live in San Francisco, a leading city that has long pride itself on inclusion, you are entitled to wonder if it is now implementing measures to provide for more safety and autonomy to those who cannot see. 

How inclusive and accessible is San Francisco now? This article provides for an overview of San Francisco’s policy towards blind pedestrian safety. 

 

Stats and facts about San Francisco pedestrian safety for blind people

San Francisco pedestrian safety infography blind people APS

With 797,300 people living with visual impairment in California, the State holds the record for having the highest number of people with visual disability of the United States. The Fog City itself has identified no less than 18,162 blind people that need help navigating streets.

If the city invests in the safety of its citizens including those with disabilities, intersection crashes continue to cause serious injuries and kill pedestrians every year.

San Francisco is made for walking: commitments to a Walkable City

 

When we talk about walking in the street, we inevitably talk about crossing them. As long as we stay on the sidewalk, in principle everything is fine. But the number of intersections in San Francisco was estimated at 18,525. Thus the probability of having to cross the sidewalk is high. Let’s add the 492,988 vehicles that plow the city every day. That’s when things get complicated.

For several years, the city of San Francisco has been following a process of gradual transformation based on the strong idea of ​​a shared use of public space, where all modes of travel have the same rights in the city. The goal is to restore the place to pedestrians by organizing a harmonious and safe cohabitation between them and the vehicles.

To translate this idea into practical reality, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is working on three ways to improve walking in San Francisco:

⊗ Pedestrian program

 ⊗ Pedestrian strategy

 ⊗ Vision Zero

With its slogan “San Francisco is a city that walks”, the SFMTA  is carrying out its Pedestrian Program including the School Safety Program to ensure safe route to school and quick effective measures turning intersections into safe areas such as: 

⊗ Red visibility curbs at 80 intersections

⊗ Painted safety zones at 40 intersections

⊗ Sidewalk bulbouts at 15 intersections

⊗ High visibility crosswalks at 200 intersections

⊗ Pedestrian headstart signal systems at 60 intersections

⊗ Advanced limit lines at 35 intersections 

To further lead people to choose to walk for most short trips, ex-mayor of San Francisco Edwin M. Lee has implemented the San Francisco Pedestrian Strategy in 2013. This action plan is broken down into various measures mainly impacting crosswalks such as:

⊗ Give extra crossing time at 800 intersections citywide, at least 160 annually

⊗ Re-open 20 closed crosswalks by 2021

⊗ Upgrade 13,000 curb ramps in the next 10 years

⊗ Install pedestrian countdown signals at 184 intersections by 2021

⊗ Target enforcement of high-risk behaviors (i.e., speeding, red-light running, failing to yield to pedestrians) on highinjury corridors and intersections, and report quarterly on injury collisions and enforcement

San Francisco is also part of the global Vision Zero movement. Its goal? Safer, more livable streets to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2024.

Latest Vision Zero end of year report shows that there is room for progress. To meet the 2024 ultimate goal, ex-Mayor Lee partnered with the SFMTA and Department of Public Health to present the WalkFirst program as part of Vision Zero global action plan.

By providing technical and statistical analysis of where and why pedestrian collisions occur in the city, the Vision Zero program is able to provide a roadmap of needed pedestrian safety projects for upcoming years. The City has leveraged $17 million for this project at 170 high-priority locations identified by WalkFirst.

San Francisco’s policy towards Accessible Pedestrian Signals

 

Our streets should be safe to everyone including the young ones, the elderly and the disabled. That is part of the definition of an inclusive city which is partially addressed in the city’s three programs presented above.

But San Francisco is going one step further.

To provide safety and autonomy for blind people when crossing the road, San Francisco has adopted a policy to implement Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) throughout the city.

An Accessible Pedestrian Signal (APS) is a pedestrian traffic light equipped with an audible and/or tactile signal that allows people with visual limitations to cross at an intersection. 

In a context where the multiplicity of vehicles using the roadway complicates the analysis of the circulation by the ear and where the tactile cues are not always implanted so as to constitute an effective marker, audio guidance on pedestrian traffic lights is a much-needed technology for visually impaired people.

Find out why Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) are a vital solution for the visually impaired in this article: How Do the Blind Safely Cross the Road?

 

2007: Accessible Pedestrian Signal Settlement Agreement

 

San Francisco was the first city in the United-States to address this critical pedestrian safety issue back in 2007.

In the Accessible Pedestrian Signal Settlement Agreement the city agreed to install at least 80 intersections with APS and to spend a minimum of $1.6 million on APS over a 2½-year period. The agreement also provides that the city will seek additional funding for more installations.

This agreement is the result of a successful multiyear advocacy campaign by the California Council of the Blind, the San Francisco LightHouse, and others. Before the campaign, only one intersection was equipped with Accessible Pedestrian Signals located at San Francisco State University. Using structured negotiations, members of the visually impaired community and the city jointly came to an agreement in 2007 that has resulted in the installations to date. 

 

2010: Accessible Pedestrian Signal program receives funds

 

In the span on the three years following the agreement, San Francisco has equipped 36 new intersections with APS (116 in total) making San Francisco the national leader on this important safety issue.

In 2010, the City received more than $200,000 in federal funds in order to equip 5 additional intersections with Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS).

2019: San Francisco APS state of play

 

According to the SFMTA last update in March 2019, 272 intersections of San Francisco are equipped with APS. The full list is available here. 83 other intersections are upon request by the public to have APS installed.

Regarding the installation policy, the agency publicly states on its website:

“SFMTA’s policy is to install APS at all new traffic signals, and at any existing signalized intersection that is undergoing a major signal upgrade.”

Considering all the undergoing and future roadworks of this constantly moving city, APS units should increase if the policy remains the same.

SFMTA also receives requests from users and local associations to install APS at specific intersections. Theses requests are subject of a prioritization according to those three criterias:

⊗ The relative priority of the requested intersection as compared to other requested intersections.

⊗ Whether any work is being planned at that intersection.

⊗ Whether an APS is likely to be installed within the next three years.

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

So far San Francisco has been setting out the exemple for other worldwide cities in terms of pedestrian safety. However, only 1,47% of intersections are equipped with APS leaving scope for even greater commitments from the city. 

Also, it seems that SFMTA has been moving at a slow pace in the last two years when it comes to installing APS in the city. On an average, 17 new APS units have been installed since 2010 but it looks like this number is declining. Is San Francisco going to lose its leading position on the world’s accessibility podium? More than 18,000 blind San Franciscans are keeping a close eye on the project.

Want to go one step further? Find out all you need to know about APS regulation in Toronto.

 

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SFMTA’s policy is to install APS at all new traffic signals, and at any existing signalized intersection that is undergoing a major signal upgrade.

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Zoé Gervais

Zoé Gervais

Content Manager

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The Montreal Metro on the Way to Universal Accessibility

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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.

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.

writer

Lise Wagner

Lise Wagner

Accessibility Expert

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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!

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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.

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

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

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

 

Close your eyes. Imagine yourself as a pedestrian facing a horde of cars pressed into the streets of London. How to know if it is safe to cross?

Every day more than 250,000 visually impaired people cross the streets of London.

What are current regulations, legislation and guidance to make the pedestrian crossings of the capital accessible?

Let’s have a look at current regulations in force. You will then be able to assess whether your crosswalks are up to standard and take the necessary steps to comply with them.

 

The Highways Act 1980 

The highway authority has the duty under the Highways Act 1980 to keep the streets and pavements clear of obstacles and clutter to allow every pedestrian to walk along them safely.

The Equality Act

The new Equality Act 2010 (former Disability Discrimination Act 1995 – DDA) provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and avoid any discrimination caused by physical features. The Act also requires local authorities to provide information that is accessible for everyone.

Inclusive mobility

In 2005 the Department of Transport published “Inclusive mobility – a guide to best practice on access to the pedestrian and transport infrastructure”. The aim of this guidance is to provide advice on best practice to assist professionals to meet their responsibilities under the Equality Act. These guidelines do not have any legal status but they provide guidance on best practice in a general sense that relevant organizations can apply to their particular situation. 

These include specifications on:  

⊗ Audible and tactile signals at pelican crossings and controlled junctions

⊗ The Design of Pedestrian Crossings 

⊗ Tactile Paving Surfaces

The main purpose of these guidelines is to set road designs for people with physical impairment to the highest possible standards that can benefit to everyone.

 

Design of Pedestrian Crossing

The Department of Transport has issued a guideline in 1995 updated in 2005 in a traffitc advisory leaflet advising on the design of general pedestrian facilities at signal-controlled junctions. A full section is dedicated to accessible pedestrian crossings.

According to the Department of Transport, two audible signals and one tactile signal standards are available: the normal standard “bleeper”, the “Bleep and Sweep” signal and the tactile cone.

The standard “bleeper” is the audible solution used when all cars are stopped at a junction. For more complexe crossings, the “bleep and sweep” signal is used. By adapting the output level of each crossing signal, pedestrians can determine which crossing is safe to cross and thus reduce the risk of confusion.

The tactile signal is a small cone fitted underneath of the push button box. The cone rotates when the green man pedestrian signal is lit. To ensure consistency for visually impaired people the tactile unit should be installed on the right hand side of the bottom of the push button unit.

When audible signals are unsafe only tactile devices shall be used. However, the question of security remains debatable. Indeed, several local associations contest this notion of “security”. According to them, all pedestrian crossings should be equipped with an audible signal no matter the design of the junction.

 

Design Standards for Signal Schemes in London

 The Design Standards for Signal Schemes in London are guidelines that list all standards for audible and tactile signals for the City of London. If you are a decision-maker from London this document specifically might interest you.

“Where pedestrian facilities are being provided, audible and/or tactile devices must be provided for the visually impaired in addition to the normal Red and Green Man indication. 

The tactile or audible devices shall always operate at the same time as and be interlocked with the Green Man indication.”

The Design Standards for Signal Schemes in London

The mayor of London says that all pedestrians crossings are accessible, in practice, it is very common to find a crossing only equipped with a cone and not with an audible signal making crossing more difficult and less secure for visually impaired people.

The document updated in 2011 contains all practical information related to the installation of accessibility equipment on pedestrian crossings in London such as:

⊗ location of pushbutton and tactile units 

⊗ red lamp monitoring

⊗ audible signal installation requirements

⊗ ‘all red’ detectors

To enable blind and low-vision pedestrian to safely cross the road, all London’s signal-controlled junctions must be equipped with audible and/or tactile signal unless specific considerations warrant their exclusion. As we know London is a large and old city. The road layouts vary widely because the space and geometry of each junction and crossing are different. Consequently these texts above list general specifications regarding accessible devices location and design but may be subject to changes to achieve safe and unambiguous signalling.

 

For more information about London’s policy on accessible pedestrian crossings, check out our last article!

 

Source documents:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/3695/inclusive-mobility.pdf

http://programmeofficers.co.uk/Preston/CoreDocuments/LCC175.pdf

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/330214/ltn-2-95_pedestrian-crossings.pdf

http://content.tfl.gov.uk/design-standards-signal-schemes.pdf

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Where pedestrian facilities are being provided, audible and/or tactile devices must be provided for the visually impaired in addition to the normal Red and Green Man indication. 

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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!

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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.

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.”

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

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.

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.

writer

Zoe Gervais

Zoe Gervais

Content Manager

stay updated

Get the latest news about accessibility and the Smart City.

other articles for you

share our article!

more articles

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.