By Janaya Fuller-Evans, with files from Kelly Sinoski, The Vancouver Sun, Burnaby Now January 15, 2011
While the chirping at Burnaby intersections won’t be silenced soon, it could be replaced with specific crossing directions for pedestrians, starting this
For now, vibrating signals are being introduced throughout the city, to help pedestrians with vision problems, as well as those whose hearing is diminished.
The City of Burnaby plans to phase out the chirping signals over time, replacing each with audio messages, with directional information on which crosswalk is safe to cross as well as other traffic information, according to the city’s director of engineering, Lambert Chu.
“In the new year, we’ll be starting with a few signals,” he said.
Because each signal has to be individually reprogrammed with its own audio message, the project will take time, he added.
There are about 50 of the new vibrating signals throughout the city, Chu said. Burnaby has about 220 traffic signals in all.
The new signals are only put in when new traffic lights are installed or when the traffic controllers need to be replaced, he added.
“When we’re installing new signals, we include the new features,” Chu explained.
He wasn’t sure how people with hearing or visual disabilities feel about the new vibrating signals, he said. “We haven’t received any feedback.”
Chu plans to look at what other municipalities are doing and how each is adjusting to or improving the new signals.
Surrey, Richmond and Vancouver are some of the cities also introducing the technology.
“It would be good if we have a uniform audio message,” Chu said.
The chirping signal has been used for east-west streets throughout the region for decades, so the visually impaired were aware of when it was safe to cross.
The cuckoo sound, used for north-south crossings, isn’t being replaced as of yet. But the Transportation Association of Canada recommended the sound be phased out, as it can be mistaken for North American birds, in a 2007 report.
“(The chirp) leads to higher rates of lateral deviation in the pedestrian walking path,” the report said. “Representatives of people with vision loss broadly
advocate a change away from the use of (it).”
The association suggested a four-toned signal called the Canadian Melody replace it.
The new vibractile signal, which vibrates and makes a low-volume sound, is also being introduced in Surrey.
Vancouver is considering switching to the melody later in the year, according to Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s director of transportation.
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