Don’t Walk

Don't Walk

Don’t Walk: Washington Avenue at Union Street, just west of the East Bank station. I see a pedestrian signal telling me not to walk in the landscaped median area from east to west. There are no through roads for traffic either to the north or south of Washington here, since Union has been closed at Washington. Are they concerned I will bump into a bike or other pedestrian. Are we now signalizing pedestrian on pedestrian traffic and pedestrian on bicycle traffic? I mean, maybe I could understand this after a concert let out (though I have never seen such a thing), but on a relatively unbusy summer afternoon? Other theories?

Don't Walk, Green Light.

Don’t Walk, Green Light. Are they concerned I will move east-west parallel to a moving train or bus? That happens all the time.

Don't Walk

Don’t Walk: Washington Avenue at Church Street, just west of the East Bank station. Again there is no regular motorized cross traffic here, since Washington Avenue is a pedestrian/transit mall


17 thoughts on “Don’t Walk

  1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

    This is the outcome when we let control-happy transportation engineers rule the roost (you’re excluded from that derogatory generalization, Mr. Levinson).

    1. Monte

      Minnesota really does have a nanny state complex, which reflects itself in traffic engineering. As another example I’ve never seen so many protected only left turns when I’ve traveled to other areas of the country. Fortunately this is going to change, with the advent of the flashing yellow arrow the new Mn/DOT standards require all new installations to be technically capable of protected/permissive operations (even if they’re not programmed this way originally), and the counties seem to also be following this standard.

      1. Matt SteeleMatt Steele

        Monte- since you’re a stoplight expert, I have a question for you about that: Why can’t we do flashing yellow arrows with existing 3-light left turn arrays? Is it because they want to have a second yellow light under the red that means, with certainty, that the light is about to be red? Why not just have a quick burst to note the transition to solid yellow light preceding a red? Thanks!

        1. Monte

          Yes, that’s exactly why, it’s too hard to notice the transition from flashing yellow to solid yellow. A position change is a bigger attention getter than going from flashing to solid, or even a color change . Even if you’re paying attention. it could be a second before you realize the light isn’t flashing anymore. There is an approved way to retrofit a 3-head signal for a flashing yellow arrow, but it involves replacing the bottom section with a bimodal (can light either yellow or green) arrow. A polycarbonate traffic signal housing doesn’t cost a lot in terms of government money (a couple of hundred dollars) so Minnesota has been opting just to replace the entire housings.

          As for why not just a rapid flash to signal a change, this would still require software updates of the controller, (and some may not be update-able at all). The real reason is probably having to educate drivers. After all, drivers proving themselves as too stupid to realize what a green ball means was one of the reasons for adopting this in the first place. (More flexibility with phasing was the other).

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    I’ve come across a red light for bikes on that last one when there were no pedestrians present too. Maybe that’s needed, because maybe there should be a regular pedestrian cycle, but it’s a weird place to ask bikes to stop when there is no one around.

    I also encountered something similar to the second one while biking through last night. I got stuck at an extended red light at Oak Street travelling east off the transit mall, while traffic in all directions had a red light. The sign with the picture of a train on it was lit, so I assume everyone was asked to wait for the approach of the train, but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to tell traffic going straight, parallel to the train, that it needs to remain stopped.

    Unfortunately, I can’t remember if there is a left turn arrow there or not. Perhaps there isn’t and the concern is cars potentially turning left in front of the train. Even so, I’m not sure what’s there seems like a good solution.

    1. JBL

      There is a left-turn arrow. This intersection is extremely frustrating — despite heavy pedestrian usage at pretty much all hours of the day, it seems to not include a pedestrian cycle across Oak automatically.

      1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

        If there’s a left turn arrow, I have no idea why parallel traffic needs to stop for the train. I’m going to have to take a closer look.

        And yeah, that’s a really dumb spot for beg buttons.

        1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

          Went through there again today, and spent maybe two minutes stopped at the light with traffic in all directions facing a red. The train stopped for a red light at Ontario, and then seemed to trigger the four way stop as it passed through Washington and oak and got stopped again at the next, westerly, light. All traffic at the intersection had to wait for the train to wait for a red at the next intersection, even though the train was already entirely out of the way.

          And, of course. The train should not have been stopped at that light.

          The design and engineering of this stretch is beyond FUBAR. I have no idea who thought things should work this way. It’s a complete embarrassment.

        2. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

          Walked it… I couldn’t even find some of the beg buttons to cross these streets…

  3. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot… Do details like this not meet a human evaluation before implementation and spending? No one to say “this is a mistake and dumb and embarrassing, I can’t put my name on it”?

  4. Jason B.

    The pedestrian signals on Washington are ridiculous. No one obeys them because they almost always make you wait when there’s no reason to. I’ve seen the auto lights go through two complete cycles before finally giving a walk signal. There’s “don’t walk” signals preventing you from crossing roads that rarely have cars on them at all. The worst is waiting at a “don’t walk” while the bicycle light is green. What, bikes can go but it’s not safe for me to cross on foot? WTF? As someone walking on the sidewalk, I feel like the lowest priority for the signals, and it’s supposed to be a pedestrian mall. Even in the summer, there’s tons of people walking, I can only imagine what it will be like when fall semester starts.

    People quickly get annoyed with the excessive delay and just run across when it looks safe. They really need to reduce the waiting time for pedestrians, because otherwise people are going to just keep ignoring them. Normally, it’s pretty easy to tell if it’s “really” safe to cross a road despite the “don’t walk”, but the trains add a wild card to the mix, and there will be accidents if pedestrians feel like their best option is to ignore the signal. Sure, some people will always just do whatever they want, but if it’s easy to obey the signals many people will. Right now it’s a real pain in the ass to do the right thing.

    1. Adam MillerAdam Miller

      All do which raises the question: is not the individual pedestrian best able ho evaluate the risks when there are only bikes and trains to worry about?

      Of course the answer may be no if the pedestrian is visually impaired.

  5. Scott Engel

    This is just a guess, but I think those audible pedestrian signals (APS) are meant to orient visually impaired/ blind people because there is no cross traffic to communicate when to cross the tracks. Sounds like it needs to be tweaked.

  6. Walker AngellWalker Angell

    Nothing like confidence in the people who design our transportation systems. And we wonder why we have the most dangerous road system of all developed countries except Greece.

  7. Tony HuntTony Hunt

    Seems as if treating people like 5 year olds is expensive. What if, ya know, there were, like, not such silly signals filling the tiny length of Washington there?

  8. Xan

    Actually I think the engineers are treating people like little, slow cars. They are traffic engineers and they see everything as traffic. Everything is designed from the pov of the drivers seat. And all the signage is designed for cars and trucks on freeways, even the signs for bicyclists. Wash Ave is officially a mess now, because it has been over-engineered.

  9. Rosa

    On a related note, did the signals at the Lake/Hiawatha change in the last year, or have I just been getting lucky lately? I swear they used to never say walk until every single car lane was stopped, and now one section says walk if it’s safe even if not all the sections are. it’s so much better!

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