Walking & Pedestrians

Accessible Pedestrian Signals

image of cross walk signal button

As part of the Accessible Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), all new signalized intersections are outfitted with Accessible Pedestrian Pushbuttons (APS).

Two audible tones are used to indicate the direction of travel for the pedestrian:

  • A cuckoo sound, accompanied by the walking person display, indicates that the pedestrian has the right-of-way in the north/south direction.
  • A Canadian Melody sound, accompanied by the walking person display, indicates that the pedestrian has the right-of-way in the east/west direction.
  • At some signals, the pedestrian signal operates automatically as well as the audible tones. At other signalized intersections, a pedestrian button must be pushed and held for five seconds in order for the audible tone to come on.
  • In addition to the ‘Cuckoo’ and ‘Canadian melody’ sounds, the pushbuttons are equipped with a locator tone. This tone is emitted from the buttons using volume over ambient to assist pedestrians, who are blind or visually impaired locating the button. The Accessible Pedestrian Signals are equipped with a raised arrow that points towards the direction of travel. This arrow vibrates when the signal sounds are activated.

When considering the installation of an intersection or mid-block pedestrian signal, the conditions required in all four sections must be achieved before a signal would be recommended.

Distance to nearest protected crossing
A minimum spacing between traffic control devices is required for pedestrian and driver safety. If two traffic signals or other devices are located in close proximity, there is a significant chance that the driver may look past the first device and take his cues from the farther location. This could result in a pedestrian being struck or rear end collision occurring.

The minimum spacing prescribed by the Ontario Traffic Manual, the provincial standard applying to traffic signals, is 215 m. Two-way streets meet this standard.  Hamilton’s experience has shown that the 140 m standard works on one-way streets, where signals are set to prevent the problems that occur with spacing this close on two-way streets.

Minimum pedestrian volume
There are a minimum of 100 pedestrians crossing at the intersection or in the immediate vicinity, in a seven hour period on one day, and the pedestrians are not or cannot be provided with an alternate form of protection.

Justification system
Staff developed a justification system to determine when it is appropriate to install intersection pedestrian signals, and in what order funds should be used. The basis of the system is the volume of pedestrians and the length of time they have to wait to cross the street. Waiting time indicates how difficult it is to get across the street, and therefore, the true need for the signal. Additional factors that influence waiting time are the demographics of pedestrians.

If there are a large number of seniors, there is a longer waiting time and a higher point rating. Independent of the waiting time, there is a higher score if there are large numbers of young, very old pedestrians or handicapped individuals crossing.

Use of adult crossing guards at pedestrian signal locations
If a pedestrian signal is installed in locations with a school crossing guard, the adult guard will no longer be required after signal installation and an introductory period.  The pedestrian signal provides 24-hour, 7 day a week protection for students. There is no need to retain two forms of traffic control at one location.

  • When using an APS at an unfamiliar intersection, take your time and become familiar with the APS and intersection before crossing. Here are some suggestions for familiarizing yourself to the APS.
  • Approach the intersection and stop at the curb or curb ramp or street edge, maintaining your initial alignment and check your alignment for crossing by listening to traffic. Even if you hear a pushbutton locator tone before you get to the street, continue to the curb or edge of the street first.
  • Determine your starting location for crossing, and identify tactile and audible cues to use to realign after pressing the pushbutton.
  • Listen and evaluate the intersection. Determine traffic patterns and the geometry of the intersection and listen for a pushbutton locator tone.
  • Remember the difference between a pushbutton locator tone and walk indication and listen to see what is there. Pushbutton locator tones are going to be repetitive, at once per second, like a grandfather clock – throughout the ‘Flashing Don’t Walk’ and ‘Don’t Walk’. If there is a pushbutton for each crosswalk on the corner, you may hear two locator tones sounding. Sometimes the locator tones will be in sync with each other and sometimes out of sync. Check the tactile arrow to be sure a pushbutton controls the signal for the street you want to cross.
  • Once the APS is located, explore the device and its functioning. Locate the tactile arrow and confirm that the arrow is pointing in the direction of the street that you intended to cross.
  • The arrows should be, but are not always, aligned with the direction of travel on the crosswalk, and so might provide another cue for alignment. You may be able to align the outside of your arm with the pushbutton and flat face of the APS to help with the direction to cross.
  • Hold the pushbutton down for five seconds or more. If your request has been accepted the pushbutton will announce "travelling northbound” or southbound or eastbound or westbound as may apply. Once your request has been accepted the pushbutton will announce “Wait” and this message will be repeated every few seconds until the signal changes. Be ready to cross.
  • When the ‘Walk’ display is provided you will hear the audible display (Canadian Melody for east/west and the Cuckoo for north/south). Once this sequence starts confirm that traffic on the perpendicular street is stopping or stopped, and listen for initial parallel traffic movements, if available. Also during the audible tone the pushbutton arrow will vibrate.
  • Cross the street using typical alignment techniques (paying attention to traffic, maintaining a straight line of travel, and so forth) and continue to listen for turning cars. In many cases, cars can turn right and left across the crosswalk during the pedestrian phase. Although drivers are supposed to yield to pedestrians, they often do not.
  • Once the ‘Walk’ display changes to the ‘Flashing Don’t Walk’ display the audible message will turn off and the pushbutton will start to count down the duration of the Flashing Don’t Walk timing.

Pedestrian Crossings FAQ

Image of cross walk sign with timerWhy do I need to press the pushbutton to get the ‘Walk’ indication to come on?
The pedestrian ‘WALK’ indication will only be displayed if the pushbutton is pressed. This is so that the signals do not cycle needlessly without a pedestrian present. Remember to PUSH THE BUTTON. If pushbuttons are not present, the walk symbol will automatically come on servicing the pedestrian as well as the vehicle phase.

Why does the ‘Walk’ symbol not appear immediately after pushing the pushbutton?
The ‘Walk’ symbol does not appear immediately after the pushbutton is pressed, due to the amount of vehicles travelling through the intersection. Different timing plans are implemented throughout various times of day, if the walk symbol does not appear within a couple of minutes after the pushbutton is pressed, please contact the Traffic Operations 905-546-4376.

Why doesn’t the ‘WALK’ indication stay on until I’m completely across the street?
The ‘WALK’ symbol has two purposes. It lets pedestrians know when to begin their crossing and it is timed to allow pedestrians to get approximately half way across the intersection. If you have already started to cross and the ‘FLASHING DON’T WALK’ indication comes on, complete your crossing as there is enough time remaining to do so safely.

How does the pedestrian countdown timer work?
The countdown timer will begin to display the number of seconds remaining for a pedestrian to complete crossing. The timer starts at the beginning of the flashing ‘DON’T WALK’ and will complete counting once the solid ‘DON’T WALK’ displays.

Contact us

For more information or to request an installation of an Accessible Pedestrian Signal please email [email protected] or calling 905-546-4376.