Friday, 21 October 2011

Pedestrians as traffic control

There is a pedestrian crossing near the train station in my home suburb. It does nothing but allow people to cross the busy road in two stages, with a refuge island in the middle. You cross one half, push the next button, and cross the second half. Despite being exclusively for the good of pedestrians, I believe it has been designed mostly with the cars in mind. For instance, in the morning, when most people are heading towards the train station, the lights are timed so that they give the maximum possible delay to pedestrians crossing the road in that direction. When one pedestrian light goes green on the side furthest from the station, you can bet that its timer is just behind the one on the other side, so that you will have to wait in the middle. If you were coming out of the station at that time, you would find the timing quite agreeable. This timing is reversed in the afternoon.

Second, if you take a look down the road to another signalled intersection, you will notice that the pedestrian light goes red just as that other one goes green, so cars coming in that direction will have to stop at both lights. This does not provide any benefit to the pedestrians, of course, and it doesn't even happen at all if there are no pedestrians. I must conclude, therefore, that the timing is the result of a conscious decision to use pedestrians as a form of traffic control. Somehow that doesn't seem like a good idea.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think the maximum-delay timing is a mistake.
PPS - But I can't know for sure.

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