|September 27, 2002|
You are considering the proposal to mark each curb to indicate where the street is. In many cases this is not necessary. People can detect sloping ground as they walk, as long as the slope is steep enough to decline at least an inch for every fifteen inches of curb run. Rather than requiring curb indicators on most intersections, do the following:
PLEASE require that curb ramps be aligned with crosswalks. Where I live, curbs are haphazardly constructed, with no relationship at all to the crosswalks. A blind pedestrian can cross outside the crosswalk without knowing it. I have. If curb ramps point in the direction of crosswalks, blind pedestrians would know exactly where the crosswalks are. They would also use the direction of the slope to confirm what their ears are telling them about the direction of traffic flow. Doing this one thing would contribute more to pedestrian safety than anything else you could do.
Concerning audible traffic signals: Two thirds of the legally blind people in this country are senior citizens, and most of them have hearing problems as well. They have to listen as closely to traffic patterns as their impaired ears will allow. Audible traffic signals would mask the sounds of traffic, making it doubly hard for hearing-impaired people to cross streets safely. In other words, a blind pedestrian could step into the path of oncoming traffic, because a noisy signal distorted the sound of the cars. People think that audible signals would help a blind person know which way to walk to reach the opposite side of the street. Having heard audible traffic signals echoing against buildings, I know from experience that they scramble a pedestrianís sense of direction. Instead of calling for audible traffic signals, do the following:
1. Leave busy intersections alone. The sounds of constantly flowing traffic are themselves the best guides possible.
2. Where one street is always busy and another is only intermittently busy, install vibrating signals. These would indicate a light change but would confuse no one.
3. PLEASE require that pedestrian signal buttons be placed in predictable locations NEAR the crosswalks. It can be disorienting to have to look ten feet away for a signal pole, then re-locate the curb and re-align oneself for crossing.
Thank you for considering these comments. I am appending my street address, in case you send a written response.
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