A wireless accessible pedestrian experience can be created for pedestrians with visibility and mobility challenges using technology such as mobile applications for smartphones and key fobs. This technology can communicate with receivers installed within the city’s existing infrastructure to administer pedestrian-actuated signals. These signals can also be accompanied by audible signals for those with visibility challenges.
Increase comfort and safety for persons with visibility and mobility challenges when navigating intersections due to potential accessibility challenges with the pedestrian push button.
For pedestrians with visibility and mobility impairments, pedestrian push buttons can often be challenging to locate and access. This challenge is exacerbated by the specific time window allotted for pedestrians to safely cross the street. This technology allows for pedestrians who experience such challenges to control the pedestrian push button themselves.
In November 2019, the municipalities of St. John’s, Mount Pearl, and Paradise, in consultation with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), launched a pilot project involving the new technology. The technology was installed at a series of strategic locations throughout each city, selected in consultation with the community. These sites included crosswalks and both signalized and stop sign intersections. Various intersection types were chosen to evaluate the technology under different circumstances. The launch event for the pilot was conducted with CNIB, which offered a training program and additional support for helping users get started if required.
The technology used for the pilot possessed added capabilities for pedestrians with visibility challenges. For example, an audible signal could be provided to signal the time to cross for visually impaired pedestrians. At crosswalks with flashing beacons, the audible signal would be delayed following the activation of the beacons. This ensured enough time for approaching vehicles to stop and prevented visually impaired pedestrians from crossing too early. Additionally, the technology would provide key information from the city about the pedestrian’s traffic environment, such as the street names of the intersection, the type of intersection and the existence of any construction in the area. Street names were always provided in north-south order to help guide visually impaired users as they travel.
Data and lessons learned
Some of the data collected from the pilot includes the number of standard and audible signals requested, the date and time associated with each request and how many requests were made at each intersection. The pilot has been considered a success based on positive feedback from users and interest shown by accessible pedestrian signal manufacturers. Data and lessons learned will be provided as findings become available.
The City of St. John’s is expected to analyze the pilot data and report to city council.