Pedestrian signals with countdowns now up

accessible pedestrian signals at Hwy 3 and 2nd St. Two intersections, 5th St at Hwy 3 and 2nd St at Hwy 3, now have accessible pedestrian signals that countdown the number of seconds remaining before the lights change.  But they’re not quite ready. According to this KYMN June 23 news report:

MnDOT project engineer, Kyle Lake says the new signals will improve accessibility, specifically for the disabled. The push-button signals will vibrate and make noise to assist blind and deaf pedestrians cross the street.

July 6 is targeted for the remainder of the installation. More info: Nfld News June 22.


  1. Ross Currier said:

    I remember when my Blandin group did our follow-up session in Rochester, many of us were impressed with “slow count” traffic signals they had in their downtown.

    Wasn’t this one of the citizen-initiated projects from the Streetscape Task Force?

    June 29, 2010
  2. Phil Poyner said:

    I’ve always called these things “death clocks” (as in “You have 10 seconds before some jerk in a pick-up truck runs you over in the crosswalk! 9…8…7…”).

    June 29, 2010
  3. Ross:

    This was a recommendation that the Task Force brought to the Council. However, this DOT project will reduce the proposal that the Task Force brought by 50% I have been told. Which is good, that means we can come up with another project idea to enhance the downtown!

    If the Council decides to keep the TIFF district in place!

    June 29, 2010
  4. I will note that this was also suggested previously by the Nonmotorized Transportation Task Force, in addition to retiming at 2nd St (the retiming was implemented).

    It’s good to see the new signals up, and I’m also pleased to see that they start the walk cycle automatically at 5th St! I do wish the same were true at 2nd St, but at least one light is finally allowing pedestrians to cross as a normal flow of traffic. The buttons have always seemed to suggest to me that, by hitting this, I’m interrupting everybody else in the intersection, not another user being accommodated at the light.

    June 29, 2010
  5. I drove thru out of downtown toward the west and then made a southward or left hand turn when I first saw the countdown indicator. I was impressed, fascinated and then realized, I better drive. They are a bit distracting at first. But I am not dissing them yet. I hope they help out the ped people.

    June 29, 2010
  6. “ped people”…sounds like “those people”.

    I am sure that was not the intended tone. 😎

    June 29, 2010
  7. Michelle Hawkins said:

    Phil,Sean, Bright, and John-ROTFLMAO! Thank You, Thank You! I so needed to laugh!
    Thank YOU ALL!

    I sat in a wheelchair for quite some time, followed by using a cane, before I re-entered the “bi-ped” world, and walked these streets everywhere i needed to go until after 15yrs without a car, finally bought one.

    Your quips here, combined with my albeit sick perspective, have provided the first real belly laugh for me in days! Oh oh my! The mental images!
    Oh my side hurts.. geeeeeezzz…..hahahahahaha

    June 29, 2010
  8. Those are all over Minneapolis. VERY convenient for a pedestrian like myself.

    June 30, 2010
  9. norman butler said:

    In Japan, half an hour before school starts and half an hour after school finishes, all the traffic lights at major intersections turn red for a minute or so to allow all pedestrians and bicycles to cross in all directions. Then the lights resume their normal pattern of traffic and pedestrian flow.

    At busy pedestrian times, especially wrt school children, this prompts a healthier balance between traffic and pedestrians and encourages more walking and bicycling to school.

    June 30, 2010
  10. This would be perfect for Hwy 246 in front of the middle school.

    June 30, 2010
  11. Uh John, I think what we would be perfect is to not have a 55 mph speed limit in front of a school 😉

    June 30, 2010
  12. John, I have a pair of black leather soccer practice shoes with over 3,000 miles on them that I can show you. No lie, if I meant “those people”, I meant me, too.

    June 30, 2010
  13. @ Sean: Yes. It seems kind of obvious, and getting that changed should not be as much of a struggle as it apparently is.

    The school is there, has been there, and will be there for a great while.

    I am tired of the “we can’t, they won’t, it’s not our problem mentality” on this issue.

    It appears to me to be a state issue, and would be happy to talk to you off-line about it. Something needs to be done, and someone in City government needs to take ownership and get it done.

    Its obvious that there is a large voice of people that want to see it changed. The question in my mind is, why hasn’t it happened yet?

    June 30, 2010
  14. These can be established by the local authority on local roads in a school zone. This regulatory speed limit is in effect whenever children are present, such as before and after school or during recess. The school plate is black and yellow and the other signs are black and white.

    So my question is this, why can’t the local authority deem this as a school zone, superseding the state based speed limit on this section of roadway?

    I think some calls to the following are in order, unless you (as part of the NMTF) have already been in touch with them:

    Scott McBride Metro District Engineer 651-234-7703
    Lynn Clarkowski MNDOT Manager, South Area 651-234-7729
    Steve Misgen Traffic Engineer 651-234-7835

    I will try to make some calls tomorrow. I am tired of waiting. I would like some direct answers.

    June 30, 2010
  15. I mean, the reality is that Division Street/246 from the High School on south was built to be a rural highway. The shared-use path, consistent on the west side and very spotty on the east, is a poor substitute for a proper city street with sidewalks and safe crossings. The street is screaming for an upgrade.

    I don’t think it’s a bad idea to ask an engineer, though I suspect you’ll get the standard rule of 85%. The speed is set to whatever 85% of drivers will drive at under normal conditions. Therefore, the speed limit is much higher where it’s built like a highway (south of HS), because drivers naturally drive faster than where it’s built like a city street (north). But clearly this isn’t always the case: I would suspect that the 85th percentile of drivers drive over 30 mph in the downtown zone of Hwy 3. So I suppose it doesn’t hurt to ask.

    June 30, 2010
  16. Oh and yes, I have gotten the impression of DOT resistance to speed limit changes, but if you think that’s bad, imagine how they’d feel about a traffic light. 😉

    Were the street upgraded, safe pedestrian crossings could be added with a roundabout at Jefferson and pedestrian refuge islands at Arbor and Anderson (the streets adjacent to the middle school).

    June 30, 2010
  17. Kristin Partlo said:

    As someone who crosses 19 without an automobile every day, I *love* the new countdown signals.

    The new signals also make it much safer for bicycles. Before as I approached the intersection with a green light, I never knew if the light would turn yellow the second I entered. Now, if a pedestrian has pushed the red button, I can make a more informed decision whether to cross. This intersection is still really frustrating as a biker, but that’s a different issue.

    Does anyone know what the two posts (currently donning black plastic) are on each corner that were just installed last weekend?

    July 17, 2010
  18. Griff Wigley said:

    Kristin, I assume those posts are what MNDOT referred to as the “push-button signals [that] will vibrate and make noise to assist blind and deaf pedestrians cross the street.”

    But tell us more why the intersection frustrates you as a biker.

    July 17, 2010
  19. Kristin Partlo said:

    Since as a biker MNDOT considers me a vehicle, I should approach the intersection on the road, not on the sidewalks. However, the signal doesn’t appear to change for those traveling on 2nd (crossing 19) unless either it senses a vehicle (I am ignorant about how these work and don’t know how it does this) or if a pedestrian hits the cross button. Several times I have sat there like a dummy waiting my turn to cross east-bound and watching the light cycle through, turning green for a car traveling west, or turning left (south) from 2nd onto 19, but never turning green for me.

    I would feel safest staying in the forward-moving lane and waiting my turn. Instead I have to either ride up on the sidewalk (which isn’t technically allowed) to press the button, or ride into the right-turn lane, reach precariously over to hit the button, then cross in the cross-walk. I usually do the latter, but don’t like this as a solution because cars behind me turning right likely expect me to turn right since I’m in the right-turn lane. The absolute safest thing to do would be to walk my bike across in the crosswalk, but this seems silly (and I almost never see other bikers doing this).

    I try to be a careful, considerate rider sharing the road, but I have had so many near-misses at that intersection both on foot and on my bike that I have lost count.

    Now I’m a little worried about how the new signals will work. Will the central red button be removed? If so, then I have no choice but to get up onto the sidewalk in order to trip the signal (unless I’m misunderstanding the arrangement of the new signals). Of course, if someone here has a better solution for a safe crossing, I’m all ears.

    p.s. How do I get my photo not to appear? I didn’t select that photo for this website as far as I know.

    July 20, 2010
  20. Kristin Partlo said:

    Ooh, I just found this page very helpful for understanding the different ways intersections are timed. The succinct version of my post above is that this intersection has an actuated timing system that does not appear to have any means to detect the approach of a bicycle. If it does, it doesn’t work. As such, I have to rely on the part of the system intended to detect pedestrians when crossing on a bicycle.

    July 20, 2010
  21. Griff Wigley said:

    Kristin, we use the Gravatar service here which automatically attaches your Gravatar photo to a comment if you post with an email address that you’ve associated with a photo on Gravatar.

    So if you DON’T want your photo to appear, use a different email address. Or if you’d rather not have that photo appear, upload a different one to Gravatar.

    But do consider using a photo since we strongly encourage it here. It helps with community-building.

    July 20, 2010
  22. Griff Wigley said:

    The new push button controls are functional, as is the audio. While the WAIT command is loud enough to hear over the traffic, the follow-up audio “You may now cross Hwy 3” is barely audible.

    July 26, 2010
  23. Seems kind of nonstandard for it to be speaking [English] to you. Does it not do the standard beep-beep-beep-beep to indicate that it’s safe to cross?

    Also, do the 5th Street lights still offer a ped crossing automatically, or was that just temporary?

    July 26, 2010
  24. Nathan E. Kuhlman said:

    Yes, the audio is now enabled. I know this because on a still day I can hear the chirping signals while sitting outside my residence on the corner of 2nd St W at Lincoln St. It sounds as though the neighbors are engaged in a perpetual game of $25,000 Pyramid. I am not so enthusiastic about this.

    July 26, 2010
  25. Griff Wigley said:

    Nathan, yes, the chirping is REALLY loud and it chirps non-stop, ie, no pedestrian button-pushers needed. Why is that necessary?

    July 26, 2010
  26. Griff Wigley said:

    Sean, I’ll try to capture the audio at a low traffic time so everyone can hear the loud beep-beep and the quiet messages.

    And I’ll check the 5th St. intersection but all the improvements there look to be the same as 2nd St.

    July 26, 2010
  27. Erica Zweifel said:

    It appears that the automatic crossing was temporary, this Saturday I had to push the button to get the pedestrian signal at 5th Street.

    July 26, 2010
  28. That’s a shame, Erica. But since we now know that a (brief) crossing period can be accommodated without interrupting traffic at that particular intersection (which has the shortest crossing distance and relatively equal flows), is it possible to request that Mn/DOT reinstate the automatic crossing?

    To clarify to others: I don’t think this is as valuable as, say, 2nd St as a ped crossing, but it lends itself particularly well to having an automatic ped signal without interrupting vehicle traffic. Why pedestrians cannot cross the cross street at, well, any other intersection remains a mystery to me. (That is, if you’re walking along Hwy 3 on the sidewalk by Culvers, you must press to legally cross the frontage road. This is ridiculous.)

    July 27, 2010

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