The Case of the Disappearing Crosswalk

Crosswalks have been disappearing in the suburbs.

As part of its ADA transition plan, MnDOT conducted an inventory of all 1171 signals with pedestrian push-buttons, with a plan to have all of the intersections in compliance with the ADA by 2030. Some high priority areas will be retrofitted as stand alone projects, but other intersections will be retrofitted when signals need replacing or other work in the area is being done. However, this is not cheap. A typical retrofit involves:

  1. Replacing all four curb ramps with ramps meeting slope and width requirements and a “detectable warning”- those steel bumps that always seem to collect snow. In many cases, the crosswalk will need to be relocated, which could affect buried traffic signal sensor loops.
  2. Installing countdown pedestrian indications if the intersection doesn’t have them. This could be as simple as swapping out a module, but could also involve replacing the entire housing if it’s a 9″ or 12″ instead of 16″ housing. (All the electronics to run a countdown are in the module itself, so at least no cabinet modifications are required).
  3. Relocating the push-buttons onto separate poles adjacent to the curb cut. The new accessible push-buttons run around $5700 an intersection, just for the buttons and associated controller themselves.

Besides the initial expense of a retrofit, the accessible pedestrian push-buttons also require ongoing maintenance. The new buttons tend to fail and need to be replaced and the button’s poles tend to get knocked over by drunk drivers. (Average cost to fix: $1000). Because of these costs, in some cases MnDOT is simply removing “redundant” non-compliant crosswalks rather than upgrading them.

An example in Eagan

Here’s an old Street View photo of Highway 13 and 55 in Eagan showing crosswalks in 2008:

photo of highway 13 & 55 intersection in Eagan showing crosswalks

Highway 13 and 55 in Eagan from 2008 with crosswalks

But the crosswalks have been removed by 2011:

photo of Highway 13 and 55 intersection in Eagan from 2011 without crosswalks

Highway 13 and 55 in Eagan from 2011 without crosswalks

The south side of the intersection gets shiny new pedestrian signals and buttons. (Once they got away from lead based paint, you can see how poorly the newer formulations hold up on the 1990s era vehicle signals):


New black plastic pedestrian signal and old aluminum vehicle signals (and a new LED luminaire)


New LED countdown


Shiny new audible-tactile push-button on top of the location of the old one.

However, the push-buttons and new signals are gone from north, west and east sides, replaced by shiny new “no pedestrian” signs. Whether or not to explicitly prohibit pedestrian movements where crosswalks, indications, and buttons were not provided was a subject of internal debate, as the signs were not being installed consistently. Eventually it was decided to always install them, as using engineering judgment, as opposed to following a policy, could expose the agency to liability.


New “No Pedestrian” signs. Note the pipe nipples below the vehicle signals that used to hold the pedestrian signals, the stickers that they didn’t bother to scrape off, and the rust where the old push-button used to be.

photo close-up of out-dated pedestrian crossing sticker

Close-up of the remaining stickers and rust where the old push-button was

The problem with just putting up signs because the legal department requires it, is too many signs water down the message; too many stop signs muddies the water between “Danger- Stop!” and “We just want to punish you for having the nerve to drive through *our* neighborhood” while “Sl0w-Children at Play” signs communicate it’s OK to jaywalk and imply there aren’t children to watch out for in other areas. With all these no pedestrian signs, “We don’t feel it’s worth it to install accommodations” gets mixed up with the very few locations where it really is too dangerous or inappropriate for pedestrians.

History and debate

The first “accessible pedestrian signals” date from the 1920s; these were a bell or buzzer attached at the request of a nearby person with a visual impairment. The “cuckoo and chirps” date from the 1970s based on a Japanese system. These were mounted on the opposite side of the intersection to serve as a “homing beacon”, but unfortunately tended to drown out traffic noise. The modern integrated push-buttons date from the 1990s.

Accessible pedestrian signals are not without controversy. Having push-buttons where there is always a “Walk” given may increase the already prevalent confusion about whether those buttons actually “do anything”. Even among disability-rights advocates, opinion is mixed. The American Council of the Blind wants APS signals at all intersections, but the National Federation of the Blind has been skeptical. Although they admit selective installation may be desirable, their position is that overall, persons with visual impairments usually don’t have difficulty navigating intersections so it’s trying to solve a nonexistent problem, and that the cost may provoke a backlash. On the surface, I’m sure I’m not the first person to raise eyebrows at nice new upgraded crosswalks leading to ditches along 55 mph highways. While out taking pictures, I was there for a half hour on a nice day, and not surprisingly didn’t see another pedestrian.

It may also be worth a broader discussion about where, if anywhere, not to provide pedestrian accommodations. Take US 14 and US 71, an intersection with a signal in literally the middle of the country. Unless someone wants to walk from once gasoline station to another, I don’t see much reason for pedestrians to be there. No accommodations are provided and no signs prohibit pedestrians. At the relatively new signal at 83rd Ave N. and Bottineau Boulevard, no pedestrian movements are accommodated and signs prohibit pedestrians from all three legs of the T intersection to the east. Walking along the east side is probably grossly dangerous since there’s a high-speed ramp from Bottineau to US 169, probably the intent is anyone walking in the ditch along Bottineau should stick to the west side, where a crosswalk is provided at the next intersection north. Or else there is a frontage road to the east, where a sidewalk or a multi-use path isn’t provided either.

I definitely feel extant crosswalks should not be removed, and it seems the cost to provide them for new signals is small in the relative scheme of things, probably less than expensive lawyers trying to reach a new common sense based agreement with disability rights advocates.



About Monte Castleman

Monte is a long time "roadgeek" who lives in Bloomington. He's interested in all aspects of roads and design, but particularly traffic signals, major bridges, and lighting. He works as an insurance adjuster, and likes to collect maps and traffic signals, travel, recreational bicycling, and visiting amusement parks.

48 thoughts on “The Case of the Disappearing Crosswalk

  1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    This newer MnDOT policy of removing crosswalks has been a source of irritation for me. I’ve found that MnDOT does remove the “no ped” signs on request — or at least they have on many occasions for me.

    What really got on my nerves was CSAH 1 & TH 3 on the Northfield/Dundas border. They decided that one of the four former crossings would be allowed to continue to exist, and they added new APS and a new concrete pad with truncated dome mat for crossing that one leg. But they didn’t connect the concrete pad to the existing trail in the right-of-way of the highway on that corner of the intersection.

    When I asked if they could maybe make that ~20 foot connection, they told me that the crosswalk was only being preserved there so that if a future pedestrian facility were added, it would have a crossing. Nevermind the fact there is a current pedestrian facility.

    In any case, the new design isn’t compatible with safe or legal walking in this area. Walking along TH 3 is rare, but it does happen. Walking along CSAH 1 is relatively common — I would guess up to 20 peds a day on nice summer days. An eastbound pedestrian should be walking on the left side of the road — so across the north leg of the intersection. But crossing there would be in defiance of the engineers’ signage. They could cross to the south leg first, but that would also be in defiance of the engineers’ (other) signage. Or they could walk on the right side of the street, against safe walking common sense for rural areas, and against state ped law.

    In any case, this seems to be about meeting a rigid standard more than about imagining how pedestrians would ever use this environment. That sparkling-new ADA pad with detached trail is classic “orderly but dumb”.

    1. Nathanael

      I suspect this installation you refer to is completely illegal. It would take some time to work out what laws they broke, but your description indicates that they are creating an unsafe situation. It’s worth badgering them about this a lot more, and possibly even lawyering up.

      1. Nathanael

        …in fact, it’s likely that the removal of crosswalks represents an ADA violation.

        Particularly in the Bloomington case noted below. If the official pedestrian detour takes 20 minutes, that’s something which able people can do and people with disabilities can’t do. So, ADA violation, and pretty easy case to win, actually.

    2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Sure enough, I was riled up enough after writing this comment, I complained to Mn/DOT. They agreed to remove two of the three sets of signs. As such, a pedestrian can at least cross north-south (with the light) east-west via the one remaining crosswalk, and then north-south with the light again. Their argument was that due to the width and speed of TH 3, they don’t want pedestrians crossing it without activating a ped cycle to extend the signal.

      Still less ped-friendly in 2015 than it was in ~1993 when that signal was installed (and a decade before the major commercial development to the northeast came in). But it’s something.

  2. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke

    I just want to know what process and criteria they use to determine this. As you point out, Monte, “nice new upgraded crosswalks leading to ditches along 55 mph highways” are a big waste of money. We should be upgrading crosswalks only where actual pedestrians do or might exist.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      I’ve been told the main question is whether there are existing pedestrian facilities in the area. In this case, there was a trail running across the east leg, so that crosswalk was preserved/upgraded. In this particular case, I don’t object to removing the crosswalks across the north and south legs, since in fact, pedestrians are prohibited west of the intersection anyway.

      But MnDOT does this routinely in rural areas, too, on highways where pedestrians are allowed and where few if any alternative routes exist. Here’s a location in Mora. The ped signs were removed after I complained, but there are still no crossing signals. Is it super likely pedestrians would walk from the gas station to the liquor store? Not really. But should it be illegal to do so? I don’t think so.

    2. Monte Castleman Post author

      They’ve since backed off of this, but for a while merely upgrading the software in the traffic controller would trigger the requirement to upgrade the whole intersection to ADA compliant signals. And Mn/DOT will usually just upgrade all the signals whenever there’s a crew out for unrelated reasons- there was a nearby mill and overlay on MN 13 a few years ago. My specific example could be one of these.

      I’m assuming just modifying signals when there’s a crew in the area for any unrelated reason still goes on, but officially, there is
      1) A process that looks at where ADA signals are most needed to be retrofitted, and those locations are prioritized, and
      2) All new or substantially modified signals.

    1. Stacy

      When there is a alternate route nearby, I don’t have an issue with “no pedestrian” signs. Presumably, the alternate route has additional safety features or a better walkway surface.

  3. GlowBoy

    Hmm… I wonder if that’s why the intersection of Ikea Way and Lindau Ln in Bloomington has “no pedestrian” signs on ALL FOUR SIDES of the intersection. I moved here a couple months ago (from Portland, OR), and shortly after arriving I visited the Mall of America and IKEA as a bus rider and pedestrian.

    Trying to simply walk from the Mall to IKEA was an exercise in frustration and lawbreaking. Or maybe not lawbreaking – do these “no pedestrian” signs really carry the force of law? Would a cop ever enforce it? I suppose they probably do represent the law by definition, since they’re white-with-red regulatory signs.

    Perhaps MnDOT should be putting up advisory rather than regulatory signs: i.e., diamond-shaped with a yellow background.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Those particular signs are more because of traffic flow on exceedingly complicated Lindau Lane. Offering a required length of countdown cycle would delay cars, which would be mildly inconvenient. Because there *will* be a much higher-quality crossing after construction is complete, this isn’t so unreasonable — that big overpass over Lindau. However, Bloomington really put the cart before the horse here, because they forbade ped crossings over a year before the new crossing will be usable. Currently the official, designated route is to walk a mile over to 24th Ave and back. Which, to be clear, they’re asking for a 20-minute detour for pedestrians to save motorists a 20-second delay in waiting for an excess countdown cycle.

      I’m unclear if such signs are enforceable. If you were cited, it would probably be something generic, like “failure to obey a traffic control device.” There is no law that I’m aware of that specifically allows engineers to prohibit pedestrians from crossing with the light when no ped signal is available. (For comparison, there are laws that provide for the ability to prohibit pedestrians from freeways.)

      I agree a warning sign would make more sense, but I doubt they’ll deviate from the national standard MUTCD sign. Better yet: make the alternate crossing so much better, no pedestrian would want to cross the street “wrong”. No signs needed.

      1. Gabe Ormsby

        That intersection is insane. Looks like they’ve reconfigured it since, but several years ago I got my only moving violation there: Making a *right* turn on *green* from Lindau into the MOA. Totally normal eastbound and southbound lanes, respectively, but it turns out there were “no right turn” signs posted at the perfect height to be obscured by the Canyoneros in front of me at the light. Still haven’t figured out what that intersection could have even been *for*, if not to get people from Cedar via Lindau into the Mall and Ikea, but I guess that’s an “edge case.”

      2. Nathanael

        After I thought about it, I realised that Bloomington’s action here was an ADA violation, discriminating against the mobility-impaired (those with arthritis, poor lung capacity, etc) who can’t walk a mile and back.

        1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

          This makes sense to me, but do you have any references of similar examples where forcing a pedestrian to take a significantly longer route constitutes an ADA violation? This would be more compelling with precedent.

          1. Nathanael

            Oh, you’d need a paralegal to do the research. The core aspect here is the fact that they *removed* a facility, though.

  4. GlowBoy

    I should also add that although these upgrades are nice, subjecting pedestrians (and, where the roads aren’t safe to ride, cyclists) to dorky beg-buttons still relegates non-drivers to second class status.

    Moving the buttons to a more convenient location is helpful, but we still shouldn’t have to stop, push a button and wait – especially if the green cycle has just begun and there’s plenty of time to allow a pedestrian movement within the minimum green duration, let alone maximum green. Not only do motor vehicles often not have to stop, they get advance detectors that sense their arrival and trigger or extend a green light before they even get there.

    Call me quixotic, but I won’t be satisfied until we have advance pedestrian/bicycle detectors. Don’t laugh. We already have optical or infrared vehicle detectors at many intersections where inductive loops aren’t optimal. These technologies could easily (and, ultimately, inexpensively) be adapted to sense the approach of humans if we demanded it. If done right, it would not require upgrades to signal controllers.

    I know this will cost money, but I do envision a future world where a lot fewer people drive, and we start recognizing that giving cars priority over pedestrians and cyclists is an Equal Protection violation, particularly given that driving is emphatically not a right but traveling under your own power is.

    1. Monte Castleman Post author

      I should add that since pedestrian pushbuttons are absolutely required now due to ADA, then “Walks on Green” and automatic sensors would only supplement them, rather than replace them.

      Honestly, while I think sensors are a good idea, probably 99.9% of the population, when approaching an intersection, either push the button and wait, or don’t push the button and just cross on a “Don’t Walk”. People making philosophical objections to “Beg Buttons” may be the majority here but don’t reflect the overall population.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        > Honestly, while I think sensors are a good idea, probably 99.9% of the population, when approaching an intersection, either push the button and wait, or don’t push the button and just cross on a “Don’t Walk”.

        I think you’re right, Monte. When I observed ped behavior on 66th Street a couple of years ago (at Nicollet, Lyndale, and Penn), less than half of pedestrians crossed on a walk signal, but almost all crossed on a green light — some hit the button, but it didn’t activate right away, so they just went. Others didn’t even hit the button.

        I don’t think it’s usually a safety issue, but it is a legal issue that’s stacked against some pedestrians. You could be cited by police for crossing against an upraised hand (even if on a green light). And perhaps even more seriously, if a turning car struck the pedestrian, the pedestrian might be found liable for part of all of the crash — because they were not legally in the crosswalk at the time of the crash.

        I think that’s a serious problem that’s more than “philosophical”.

      2. Nathanael

        No, pedestrian pushbuttons are NOT required by the ADA. I don’t know who’s spreading these lies.

        For example, at any intersection with a four-way stop, a two-way stop, or with yield signs, there obviously will be no pedestrian signals at all. The sidewalks and crosswalks still have to be ADA-compliant (“truncated domes”, slopes, etc.)

        Maybe you have some weird Minnesota-specific thing going on with MNDOT requiring beg buttons, but out here in New York, it’s quite clear that intersections with traffic lights don’t require beg buttons either.

        (And why would they? Beg buttons are often NOT ADA COMPLIANT, folks… they present an unnecessary difficulty for people with certain disabilities.)

        At traffic lights, the ADA does probably require the audible announcement (most modern version: “Cross State Street now.”)

        1. Nathanael

          Ah, I see, there’s confusion caused by the article…

          ADA compliant retrofits for traffic lights require the audible announcement, and perhaps the visual countdown (there was a push to make this required a while back).

          They do NOT, repeat NOT, require any sort of “beg button”. In my city, most of the pedestrian cycles trigger automatically with the green lights.

          1. Matt Brillhart

            I really have to wonder why Minneapolis is retrofitting intersections with beg buttons then if they are not *required*. 28th & Grand got the ADA upgrade last summer and they added the little posts at all 4 corners of the intersection. It’s a somewhat busy one-way meeting a very calm one-way. There was absolutely no need for beg buttons at the intersection.

            1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

              Different agencies have different attitudes and internal policies on this. Currently, at least on the national level, APS is only required where blind users are anticipated. However, some agencies go well beyond this. (Perhaps because they anticipate a universal requirement down the road?)

              For example, City of St. Paul does APS on all legs of all new lights, as does Mn/DOT (except for the many legs where they simply remove crosswalks). Dakota County also does it for all legs, even though major street sidewalks get a walk signal by default. On the other hand, Hennepin County and City of Minneapolis continue to install inferior, non-APS equipment at many intersections, and only use APS selectively. It seems to be where vision impairment or possible cognitive issues are anticipated.

              So I assume in the case of 28th/Grand, there was probably some demand from elderly, vision-impaired, or some other user group that would benefit from APS.

              However, I don’t know why you wouldn’t be happy to get it. I think APS provides a superior experience for all users (except for the condescending signs). The button orientation and arrows make it much clearer which button corresponds to which leg. The audible countdown can be beneficial if sunlight makes the visual countdown hard to read. And the red light that indicates when a button has been pushed — very helpful if you arrive at an intersection where somebody is already waiting. (Otherwise you need to have faith they pushed it, or awkwardly second-guess them by pushing it again.)

              1. Monte Castleman Post author

                Is there an example of a recent installation of non-APS equipment? Another possibility is that Minneapolis reuses old equipment to a degree not done by other agencies so they may be recycling, or using up the last of “the old stuff” in the shop. Hennepin County has also diverged to “doing their own thing” with signals, they have not switched to galvanized poles and introduced a unique street light arm used nowhere else in the state.

                Although it may not be, strictly speaking, a legal requirement, Mn/DOT is obligated to phase it in due to their ADA transition plan. Several years ago I read that it was a result of a lawsuit or potential lawsuit from disability rights advocates, and that all signals had to be upgraded in the next 10 years or so (I forget the exact date), but that documented, like a lot of stuff on Mn/DOT’s site has disappeared, and now there seems to be no specific deadline, just that they anticipate it being done by 2030. If there was indeed a deadline at one point that may be why some of this ridiculousness occurred..

                1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                  Within Minneapolis: 56th & Lyndale (2013), all Chicago Ave S signals (2013). 2014: Nicollet & 38th (no push buttons at all). Nicollet and 40th (non-APS push buttons for 40th).

                  Hennepin County examples — best example is along France Ave, all new ped crossing equipment, but exclusively non-APS buttons.

                2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

                  As an aesthetic detail, I actually really like the signal arm Hennepin County uses — the arc. I also like the Minneapolis one, straight out. Both I think are a much cleaner look than the truss Mn/DOT, Dakota County, and others use.

                  Note that even Mn/DOT does not use the galvanized poles in many towns/urban areas. See the relatively new signals in Lindström. Since Hennepin County signals are mostly urban/suburban, I understand why they wouldn’t really be using galvanized. (Which holds up great, but is pretty unsightly.)

                  1. Monte Castleman Post author

                    I believe the Lindstrom signal is paint over galvanized. Mn/DOT will still let a local agency paint a signal if they want something other than a bare galvanized finish, but since it’s now entirely aesthetics the local agency has to pay the entire cost to paint it.

              2. Nathanael

                So here’s the thing: you can have APS without having “beg buttons”.

                The classic version is for the signals to announce the pedestrian phases audibly every time, automatically. (The pedestrian phases are still automatic with every light change.)

                This may lead to noise pollution complaints. So the alternative version is to have buttons which do nothing but turn the audible announcements on. They’re not beg buttons.

                1. Nathanael

                  Honestly, if you read the manual on APS which Sean linked to, you’ll notice that nothing in it requires pushbuttons at all. There’s a list of “common features” which are said to be not exclusive and not necessarily required.

        2. Monte Castleman Post author

          Where’s a specific New York signalized intersection that is ADA compliant that does not have pedestrian push buttons? Although as you point out the requirement could in theory be met by not having an active button, in practice the button, speaker, controller, and vibrating arrow all come packaged as one system and it seems just omitting the button component the cost savings would be minimal compared to the cost of having two different products. If there’s an alternative omitting the buttons I’ve not seen it, and it’s not on Mn/DOT’s approved product list.

          So they just install button everywhere even in cases like on University where the button itself is redundant. I can also see pedestrians approaching a buttonless unit and getting confused when they can’t find the button, or pressing on the tactile arrow doesn’t do anything.

          Here’s some relevant cites from the National Manual of Uniform Control Devices:

          Section 4E.11 Accessible Pedestrian Signals and Detectors – Walk Indications
          02 Accessible pedestrian signals shall have both audible and vibrotactile walk indications.
          03 Vibrotactile walk indications shall be provided by a tactile arrow on the pushbutton (see Section 4E.12) that vibrates during the walk interval.
          04 Accessible pedestrian signals shall have an audible walk indication during the walk interval only. The audible walk indication shall be audible from the beginning of the associated crosswalk.

            1. Monte Castleman Post author

              Yes, that’s correct. ADA does not have to be installed at all signalized intersections, unless required by local policy. But you cannot call an signalized intersection ADA compliant unless it meets certain standards. My point is that, as a practical rather than theoretical matter, it seems to not be possible to meet those standards without buttons. It’s possible that New York (which uses a *lot* of very ancient equipment, is redoing curb ramps, etc without touching the signals. Reading the MUTCD, it seems that these intersections would not be considered compliant.

              1. Nathanael

                MUCTD has zero legal force when it comes to the ADA, for what it’s worth. It’s simply not the right book of regulations.

          1. Nathanael

            In practice it seems quite straightfoward to have the pedestrian phase activate automatically with every light cycle. *Like everyone wants*. I’ve been at several of these.

            It’s hard for me to pin specific examples off the top of my head right now, partly because all the streets in my area are ripped up and under temporary signalling, and partly because several were in neighboring cities.

            Anyway, I’ve seen two designs.

            #1: The pedestrian phases are automatic, and the noises go off automatically, always. (Generally I’ve seen this in commercial districts).

            #2: The pedestrian phases are automatic and the buttons only activate the noises. (I’ve only seen a couple of these.)

            (Is #2, incidentally, what’s being done at University Avenue “where the button itself is redundant”? Your comments confuse me.)

            I don’t know anything about MnDOT’s “approved equipment list”, obviously.

            1. Monte Castleman Post author

              Yes, even though the Walk signs turn on automatically for crossing side streets, they still have the buttons to provide audible and tactile feedback and point the way to the crosswalk, even though the button itself doesn’t really do anything when pressed since the Walk would go on anyway.

    2. Walker AngellWalker Angell

      I don’t have a problem with beg buttons when there are very few people begging relative to motor traffic though an advance button a bit prior to the intersection would be very beneficial. I’ve used a number of advance buttons on bikeways in Europe (you almost consistently get a green light if you ride 10 mph from the button) and they are very useful on bicycles where maintaining momentum is important.

      I would like to see pedestrians given a crossing signal much faster after pressing the beg button and more appropriate crossing times.

    3. Rosa

      How about just building in the pedestrian signals?

      Especially since turning traffic is allowed to turn through the walk light as long as there isn’t a pedestrian, there is literally no loss to drivers to having non-beg built in walk lights.

      I keep hitting Cedar & 34th when the light looks like it’s gonna turn, the cycle has started (the don’t walk light is flashing for those who might want to cross 34th) but nobody pushed the beg button, so if the car waiting turns right, or gets pissed and cuts through the gas station or illegally turns left on red (not uncommon) the light reverts to don’t walk/let Cedar traffic through. Even when there’s no Cedar Ave traffic. It is infuriating.

      1. Monte Castleman Post author

        1) Mn/DOT is simply not allowed to have pedestrian signals without ADA accommodations, which AFAIK mandates buttons, no ifs, ands, or buts, no matter how ridiculous the expense of those accommodations seems to us. Complaining to them about removing crosswalks rather than upgrading is something they have the power to change, removing no-pedestrian signs they can change, providing less elaborate provisions is not.
        2) There is not always “no downside to drivers”. It can be none, like on the cross streets along Lyndale, but it can be pretty significant, to use the intersection in the article. As intersections get wider and wider the pedestrian clearance time gets greater and greater than the minimum green time for drivers, so if only a single car wants to go on green, it can be a loooong time until the other direction gets their green. I don’t recall exactly, but the clearance time to cross MN 55 was close to 30 seconds.

        1. Nathanael

          For clarity, there is definitely no mandate requiring buttons. That’s simply a misinterpretation.

          I’m not sure why the only approved products on the MNDOT list are button-centric.

          1. Monte Castleman Post author

            Are there even products out there that provide both audible and tactile feedback that don’t have a button? If they are how much would it cost to stock both models with and without button push functionality? I don’t know.

  5. GlowBoy

    To be clear, it’s not just a philosophical issue. At busier times one can’t cross on the Don’t Walk, and the delays become real. When we have a larger population who actually use their feet for transportation and walk more than 5-10 minutes from their car on a routine basis, they’ll start to notice how these delays add up, especially in suburban areas with lots of these intersections. It is a significant deterrent to walking and cycling.

    Also, since the issue of crossing “against the light” was brought up, I’ll point out that while “jaywalking” laws seem to be unenforced in Minnesota (a situation which itself creates the potential for police abuse and harassment of certain populations), that’s not true everywhere. In Seattle, where I used to live, cops routinely ticket pedestrians – and as a result pedestrians are exceedingly observant of Don’t Walk – making these beg-button delays much more real in practice.

    This issue is particularly on my mind today, having just done a long bike ride through Richfield, Bloomington, Eagan and Apple Valley. Compared with Portland I’m doing a lot more riding on the impressive system of MUPs and a lot less on bike lanes. I guess I’m used to being able to go on the green light, and I’m not used to facing the orange hand so much. It does irritate me to have to repeatedly break the law just to get around. Dozens of times, orange hands at most of the signalized intersections I crossed, even when the adjacent vehicular movement was green. Naturally I checked carefully for potential conflicts and blasted through anyway, like any sane person. If I’d actually stopped and waited every time I would have added half an hour to the trip. I do literally mean half an hour: figure on a number of seconds’ delay simply for stopping and restarting, plus about a minute of average actual signal delay at each intersection (assuming that on average I have to wait at least half of a 90 minute cycle).

    I realize that automated human detection isn’t something we’ll see in the current round of upgrades, or even the next one. It will take years to build momentum for it, get MUTCD updated, etc. And that’s why I’m starting to bang the drum now.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      For Eagan and Apple Valley, Dakota County at least programs their County signals to include a walk sign by default on most major roads. Minor roads still have to “beg”, but I think we’re just going to have to accept that. Even in Minneapolis, basically every new signal outside downtown has begging for the more minor street.

      But it is ironic that much more dense and urban Hennepin County lags behind Dakota County in this basic bike/ped amenity.

      1. Monte Castleman Post author

        My belief is that Dakota County used to use semi-actuated intersections a lot, where you’d have sensors on the side streets and turn lanes, but omitting them from the main street through movements. The main street would be Green / Walk unless there was a call on a conflicting phase. More modern systems tend to have sensors on all legs, even if you want a rest in green, they can provide feedback to the controller on traffic volumes, and the controller can then adjust timing in response. One controller even has a feature where you can turn the light red if a driver who is speeding approaches.

        The main issue is that if a driver pulls up to the side street, s/he has to wait for the entire pedestrian clearance interval even if there’s no cars or pedestrians around, and the new MUTCD requires noticeably longer clearance times. One intersection in Hastings will have the pedestrian sign go continuously from Walk to Don’t over and over again while the main street is resting in green, tipping the balance away from pedestrians towards side street traffic.

        It’s a balancing act since you want pedestrian clearance times to accommodate all pedestrians without causing unnecessary delays to cars. Some ideas that have been tried (but not here) are using a short clearance time combined with, are pressing and holding the button for two seconds for extra time, “keys” issued to area residents that need extra time, or extra pedestrian sensors that sense if there’s an actual pedestrian in the intersection.

        These are not without problems. Making the pedestrian time correspond to actual need seems like a good idea, but where do you put the time. If you extend the Walk, you still need the entire clearance interval before other traffic can use the intersection. Extending the clearance time messes up countdown indications. Extending the buffer might lead to panic if a slow pedestrian sees the steady Hand. 3M had a pedestrian signal that would use optics to show “Don’t Walk to people on the curb, and “Walk” to those in the intersection. It didn’t catch on because besides being expensive it wasn’t compatible with flashing clearance, used mechanics, and the constantly on bulb would burn up the plastic lenses.

        1. Nathanael

          I’m thinking in the long run, pedestrian sensors are going to be the way to go.

          Implemented properly, they would make it harder for the classic “I had a green light to turn right across the crosswalk so I ran the pedestrian over” thing to happen.

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