Blind Pedestrians at Unfamiliar Signalized Intersections

Research on Safety
Source: Transportation Research Board

Pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired often travel in unfamiliar areas and cross at signalized intersections. This paper presents the results of part of the first phase of a study of crossings by pedestrians who are blind at unfamiliar complex signalized intersections. Data are being collected, in three cities, with 16 participants who are unable to see crosswalk lines, pushbutton poles, or pedestrian signals, on the following variables: participants' location in the crosswalk; location in relation to the crosswalk at the end of the crossing; delay after the onset of the walk interval (or parallel straight-ahead traffic); cue used to initiate starting; traffic movements at the end of the walk phase; finding and use of pushbuttons; and requests for assistance or need for intervention for safety at any part in the sequence of crossing tasks. All participants were accustomed to crossing independently at signalized intersections using a long cane or dog guide. The three cities include Portland, Oregon, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Charlotte, North Carolina. The eight intersections (two in each city) had the following types of geometric and signalization complexity: skewed crosswalk; median; splitter island; right turn lane; more than one left turn lane; offset intersection; leading left turn interval; pedestrian phase on recall; pushbutton actuated pedestrian phase; split phasing; exclusive pedestrian phasing; mixed exclusive and concurrent pedestrian phasing; and leading pedestrian interval. The data reported here are drawn from Portland, Oregon, only. In a subsequent phase of the research, Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) will be installed at each of the eight intersections, and data will again be collected on street crossings, this time using the information provided by the APS.

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