Pedestrian Crossing PSA
You know those buttons you have to push to cross at a crosswalk?
You should push them once.
Pushing the button on the ped pole once tells the signal system to change modes.
There are generally two modes:
- Pedestrian signal is needed.
- Pedestrian signal is not needed.
Pressing the button once tells the system that when the light changes, it should take the pedestrian into account, and therefore it will increase the green time for the cars (as well as give you a “walk” signal).
The signal does not change any sooner because you pushed the button.
Got that? It doesn’t hurry up because you pushed it. It doesn’t switch to crossing mode faster. It just gives you longer once it does change. Its failure to switch quickly does not mean it has failed to “hear” you. You will wait just as long as you would have had you not pushed the button. But you should still push it because otherwise you will get the normal amount of green time and you won’t get a walk signal, so you probably won’t have enough time to walk. (No, ped poles are not placebos. They really do do something.)
So mashing it over and over again, or more than once, is not hurrying things up. It is a waste of energy. It is pointless. It makes you look like an impatient asshole. And you are not going to get to cross any sooner no matter whether you press it once or forty times. You just get longer to walk.
Curiously enough, several of my Tumblr friends and I had a reblog-discussion about this same topic back in May. And in that discussion, one reason came up for why some people may press the button multiple times, even if they know it doesn’t do anything. It’s not a good reason, mind you, but there is a psychological aspect to it.
That reason? Pedestrian crossing lights, for the most part, are terrible from a user-interaction perspective.
With most pedestrian crossings, there is absolutely no indication at all that the state has changed— that is, that your button press has even registered— until the next traffic cycle begins. Which, in some cases, can be a minute or more after pressing it. (In the past, I’ve ended up waiting several cycles before discovering that the signal button was, in fact, broken, because there was no way to tell otherwise!) It’s like clicking a link in a web browser, but not getting the little spinny icon that tells you “hey, be patient, I’m loading your page!” until the page has fully finished rendering.
So sometimes, if I push the button and nothing happens for 15 seconds or so, I begin to wonder if my button press actually did register. And so, to be absolutely sure…I end up pushing it again.
There are, of course, exceptions to this terrible user interface. Some of the newer pedestrian signals that I’ve seen have a light near the button that lights up to indicate that the button press has registered but that it’s still not safe to cross. I like these. It’s instant feedback that tells me, “yes, your button press has been recognized”, regardless of how long the traffic cycle happens to be. There’s no need to second-guess yourself about whether it recognized your button press— you know you’ll get a pedestrian signal eventually.
All crossings in the UK have lights that tell you when the button has been pressed.
But you should see how many people go up to it and press it.
WHEN A RED LIGHT AROUND THE BUTTON INDICATES IT HAS CLEARLY BEEN PRESSED.
This whole traffic lights subject is such an interesting study in social psychology.
24 Notes/ Hide
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- sootonthecarpet said: I don’t think it’ll make it go faster, but a sister of a schoolmate has a habit of always pushing it in a multiple of three, and I’ve walked with her enough that I’ve acquired it. (She’s a little obsessive-compulsive and gets distressed otherwise.)
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- leolilac said: I always hit it twice because I hate odd numbers and hitting it once bugs me on a subconscious level, not so much because I’m impatient. xD
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