Comparing What Counts as Acceptable Delay for Pedestrians and Motorists

This video, from the Ontario-based advocacy group Sudbury Moves, puts in perspective how patient we ask people to be at pedestrian crossings.

Think it’s no big deal to wait 90 seconds to cross the street? Well, people don’t expect to wait that long at the drive-through. In the time it takes to wait for a walk signal, two cars full of passengers are able to order and get their food from this Tim Horton’s. (To me it looks like it may be three cars, but I’ll accept the filmmakers’ accounting.)

The video is boring, just like waiting at the light is boring and frustrating. But it’s a strong comment on how transportation systems prioritize motorists over pedestrians. And the stakes are pretty high, since the pedestrian signal is so inconvenient (in addition to making people wait, it’s only activated if someone pushes a button) that a lot of people disregard it.

Sudbury Moves produced another video explaining why this particular intersection is broken. After a motorist struck a person crossing the street, police fined the pedestrian $50 for crossing against the light.

If you consider the conditions, it’s just not easy to cross safely at this intersection — a predictable result of planning for cars and not for people.

  • war_on_hugs

    Beyond that, “Level of Service”-based evaluations of road and highway projects would tout billions of dollars in time savings if they took 90 seconds off every car trip in a certain corridor (no matter how long).

  • Sarah

    Yes! So glad you’ve addressed this.

  • ddartley

    Even if motor vehicles and pedestrians have equal wait times, that’s still unfair because people in vehicles are in the comfort of protection from the elements. I formally asked NYC DOT a couple years ago if they’d consider adjusting signal timing at least on bad weather days to accommodate pedestrians and they said they’d study it but I’ve never heard anything since. And hell while I’m at it, The Crosswalks Are Too Damn Narrow! The unfairness is everywhere.

  • chekpeds

    What about adjusting the signals to create a “walk wave” so that pedestrians walk signals are synchronized for continuous walking without stopping? At a minimum every intersection study should show level is service and volumes for both vehicles and pedestrians.

  • Alex Brideau III

    The challenge might be that a “normal” walk speed for me is different than a normal walk speed for my mother and for my daughter, yet we’re all pedestrians.

  • Bobberooni

    In places like those in this article, pedestrian crossings are so far from each other, there would be no point in a walk wave.

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