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What does the flashing DON'T WALK signal mean?

Oftentimes pedestrians are confused because the flashing DON'T WALK display appears before they finish crossing the street. Usually, there is nothing wrong with the traffic signal timing, there is just a misunderstanding of what the pedestrian signal means. The WALKING PERSON symbol or "WALK" signal really means that it is the pedestrians' turn to to start crossing. However, pedestrians should always be on the lookout for motorists who are turning right or left across their crosswalk, or who may run the red light. The flashing orange UPRAISED HAND symbol or "DON'T WALK" signal, really means "Don't Start," and if your have stepped into the street during the WALK interval, there should be enough time to finish your crossing before the steady DON'T WALK appears and the signal turns green for the cross traffic. When the steady DON'T WALK appears you should not begin crossing, and should not be in the street.

Agencies typically provide enough flashing DON'T WALK time for a person to cross the street at a walking pace of four feet per second. Elderly or mobility-impaired people may require more time, and a slower walking speed of 3.5 or 3.0 feet per second may be more appropriate. If this is still not enough time, it may be advisable to study the location to determine the actual walking rate. In some cases it may be best for pedestrians to wait for the next green light and WALK signal before crossing.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides guidance that at least seven seconds of WALK time should be provided so that pedestrians have adequate opportunity to leave the curb before the clearance interval begins. The flashing orange UPRAISED HAND/DON'T WALK interval is the pedestrian clearance interval. It is similar in concept to the yellow light clearance interval for motor vehicles. Pedestrians should be provided sufficient time to cross the street without being rushed.

Learn more about pedestrian Signals and Signs in the engineering section.