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pedestrian safety graphic

Pedestrian Traffic Signals

Signals that are specifically designed for pedestrians are being used more frequently in New Jersey. Here are the answers to some of the commonly asked questions.

Shouldn’t every intersection have pedestrian signals?
Pedestrian signals are usually installed at intersections with a high volume of foot traffic, a school crossing and/or have other traffic signals that do not adequately help pedestrians cross safely.
   
What kind of pedestrian signals are there?
Both word and symbols are used on pedestrian signals. These are the most common:
  • Word:
"WALK/DON'T WALK"
  • Symbol:
walk sign graphic
don't walk sign graphic
  • Symbol with Countdown:
countdown sign graphic
   
Why are words being replaced by symbols?
Most people can understand symbols faster than they can words and are internationally understood. They do not present a language barrier.
   
Why does it always say “DON’T WALK” before I’ve finished crossing the street?

The flashing “DON’T WALK” or upraised hand is a warning to people who have not yet entered the intersection. It means that it is too late to start to cross the street before the traffic signal changes and allows cars to proceed. Signals are timed to allow plenty of time for people who have already started walking to safely cross the street.

What does the countdown timer tell me?
The countdown timer counts down the number of seconds that the flashing "Upraised Hand" will be on. This gives the pedestrian that has already started to cross the street a feel for the amount of time they have left to complete their crossing before the signal changes.

Do the push buttons really work?
Yes, the buttons really work but they work more like pushing a button for an elevator than flipping a light switch. When pushing the button for an elevator, you expect to wait until the elevator gets to the floor you are on before the doors open. A pedestrian push button works much the same way. Motor vehicles have to be given enough notice to allow them to stop safely before you can safely cross the roadway much like waiting for the elevator to get to your floor before the doors open.

pedestrian signal sign graphic

pedestrian signal countdown sign graphic

 
Is it really necessary for me to push a button to activate the pedestrian signal?
Buttons are available to pedestrians at locations where the traffic light is set for cars, not for people on foot. If you don’t activate the pedestrian signal by pushing the button, the pedestrian signal across the main roadway will not activate and the traffic light may not give you enough time to safely cross the street. You only need to push the button once for it to be activated.
   
What does a push button do at a signal that doesn't have pedestrian indications?
It allows you to change the signal to green so you can cross the highway. At an intersection where the roadway is wider, it will allot extra green time to allow you to cross safely.
push button for green light sign graphic
to cross street push button wait for green light sign graphic
   
Why do some buttons flash and beep?
The reason for the beep and the flash is to let you know that the signal's controller knows you are awaiting to cross. This is an improvement over the older buttons that did not. The concept, again, is much like the button for an elevator button that lights up when you push it so that you know it is working.
push buttons graphic
 
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  Department of Transportation
  P.O. Box 600
  Trenton, NJ 08625-0600
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  Last Updated:  June 18, 2010