Here’s a question from a Road Warrior reader:

I have a question about all these new pedestrian signals popping up the past few years. I’m thinking of the one on Mendocino Ave. in front of the JC at the moment, but I think my question applies to all of them. It seems as if the warning system is activated immediately upon a pedestrian pushing the button. This means traffic stops for one pedestrian who pushed the button and them remains stopped as sometimes a long string of pedestrians spaced out every 20 to 30 seconds or so walks up to the crosswalk and then starts across the street. Why don’t these signals pause 30 seconds or so before activating the warning lights to allow several pedestrians to accumulate and then cross at the same time rather than stringing them out over a prolonged period of time? This is how it works for cars. Why not the peds? Daniel

The answer is from Robert Sprinkle, Santa Rosa’s traffic engineer:

You are correct in that these are warning beacons. The purpose is to warn drivers that there is a pedestrian in or entering the crosswalk. Just like a crosswalk on any non signalized corner, pedestrians arrive at various times and can cross when they establish themselves in the crosswalk. The beacons help bring more awareness to the pedestrian. They should be used as an aid to crossing the street, not as a right to cross the street.

The beacons are not pedestrian signals. A pedestrian signal (like at Steele Lane School) is a signalized crossing for pedestrians which gives the vehicles a green, yellow, red indication and gives the pedestrian an allotted crossing time with an pedestrian indication (walking person and flashing hand).

We do not delay the push button activation of the pedestrian beacons because we do not give an indication on when to cross. So if we delayed the time to cross, a pedestrian would not know when the beacon was in operation. It is still the responsibility of the pedestrian to establish themselves in the crosswalk, establish eye contact with the drivers and cross (just as you would at a non-beacon crosswalk).

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