Crossing the Street Safely

Obeying pedestrian signals and crossing at crosswalks is the safeest way to cross the street. Photo credit: Richard Sunichura
Obeying pedestrian signals and crossing at crosswalks is the safeest way to cross the street.

Every year pedestrians are killed or injured crossing the street in Toronto. The majority of these accidents are preventable. The safest way to cross the street is to use the pedestrian crossing buttons and obey pedestrian signals. It also helps to look both ways before crossing the street and to proceed across the crosswalk with caution. Remember, just because you have the right of way doesn’t mean you should cross the street if you cannot do so safely.

Intersections with a high volume of traffic such as Finch Ave. E and McCowan Rd. do not have “pedestrian push-buttons.” These types of intersections contain fixed time signals that change the traffic and pedestrian lights in a sequential order. Many other intersections across the city do have “pedestrian push-buttons.”   When a pedestrian presses the “pedestrian push-button” at a traffic light, a signal is sent to the traffic light, which lets the system know a pedestrian would like to cross the street.   It may take up to two minutes before the pedestrian signal changes.

Pedestrians may be able to cross the street safely once the pedestrian signal changes to the “walking person” symbol and when traffic has come to a complete stop. When the “flashing help hand” symbol is displayed, pedestrians who have already started crossing the street should continue to do so. However, pedestrians who have not started crossing the street should not begin walking across the intersection. The “steady halting hand” signal tells pedestrians that they cannot cross the street as they no longer have the right of way.

The City of Toronto also uses auditory accessible signals that are linked to the visual traffic signal system. This auditory accessible signal system allows pedestrians who are visually impaired to cross the street safely. It informs them when it is safe to cross the street and in which direction.

Pedestrian signals emit a chime called a “locator beacon.” This sound allows visually impaired pedestrians to locate the “pedestrian push-button.” Most audible signals to cross the street are activated only when a pedestrian presses and holds the “pedestrian push-button” for three seconds or more, which also initiates the countdown to change the traffic and pedestrian lights.

Once the light changes to the “walking person” symbol, the audible signal will emit a different noise. A “cuckoo” sound notifies pedestrians that they can cross the intersection in the north/south direction while a “chirping” sound informs them that they can cross the street in the east/west direction. When the countdown begins it indicates that the traffic light will change colours.   At this time, the “cuckoo” or “chirping” sounds will stop. This notifies visually impaired pedestrians that it is no longer safe to cross the street.