I really did want to come up with a wittier name for this post, but it is what it is… And today’s lesson was all about intersections controlled with stoplights.

We where at the same area we use last time, and made our way to the intersection I had stopped at before. Elain explained to me that there are two different types of stoplights. One is called a Variable Timed, and the other Fixed Time. You can guess by their names, it’s really simple.

Traffic LightA variable timed intersection is controlled by a stoplight with an embedded pressure plate or wiring that a car rolls over to control the amount of time the light will stay green on the next cycle. – You can usually see the wires or plate in the roadway. A fixed time intersection has a set interval of red to green cycles that will not change… Simple.

Did you know most traffic lights and cross walk lights timing are based on the fact humans walk about 5-feet-per-second? The wider the street, technically the longer the light will stay green, or walk light will stay on. Did you know that on a variable timed intersection, most lights will add about 3-seconds to the light cycle for each car in the line, most times with a maximum up to three cars deep? (That’s about 9 or 10-seconds.)

Man, it turns out mobility instructors really know their stuff!

So any way… We approached and surveyed the intersection. We determined it was a variable timed intersection; the main street cycle was about 30-seconds, and the side street was about 15-seconds. We noted stoplight pedestrian buttons and we talked about there use. Remember to use them when cars are rolling, so they interrupt the cycle; but remember, some may not work, (in our case one was broken).

The button facing into you is used to control that light crossing the street that you are facing, the button should never be behind you, if so, it’s likely not for that street.

We hit the button, lined up, and waited for the light to change. Here it comes, lights green, check left, center, right, all clear, and go! Always noting the danger point and crossing traffic, many intersections, it’s the middle of the cross walk where you could have cars turn in front of you, particularly if a stopped car is to your left.

Not bad, we made it… and now… we do it again! We continued this way making circles around the intersection when it was the proper time to cross; it must have looked funny, because we looped the intersection clockwise about a half-dozen times.

We talked about the dangerous turn-on-red that so many drivers like to do, even though some (a lot) like to ignore the no-turn-on-red signs. She reminded me that pedestrians still have the right-of-way at crossings, and if a car is at a stop, it’s unlikely they will turn on you. – But I still take little comfort in that. This is part of the huge anxiety of street crossings that gets to me. But the only way to get over this fear is to do more street crossings.

So drivers, please put down your cell phone, stop putting on your makeup, don’t pass stopped cars and pay more attention at intersections. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at cross walks, and persons with a white cane or service dog have even more! If you’d just pay attention, the road would be much safer for all of us!

If you blow your horn at me, and flip me the finger… I’m likely to cane your car, you ungrateful 4-wheeled little bastard. – Road rage, blind man style! – I didn’t say that, I deny everything! I didn’t see your car, I swear!

Next week Elaine says we’re going to play in more traffic, and a little busier intersection. Oh the joy! In all I’d have to say I’m still a 3 out of 5 for busy intersections. But a strong 4 out of 5 for lesser intersections.

Lets see what next week brings!

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4 Responses to Orientation and Mobility: Anatomy of a Stoplight

  1. AllyInWonderland says:

    HILARIOUS!!! “I’m likely to cane your car, you ungrateful 4-wheeled little bastard. – Road rage, blind man style!”

    I love it!!!

    But seriously, I have been wondering this for years and have never been able to ask….we have “new” stoplights on campus that have two different sounds for the directional crosswalks. One direction is a beep and one is a chirp. Now, I am a semi-normal, fully-visual (even though I miss things) adult and I still can never figure out which way to go for the beep and which for the chirp. I grew up in the city where walk lights were ignored and you just ran for you life when cars weren’t present.

    How do you know which post is beeping/chirping? I can never focus the sound to follow it. Is it just me?

  2. Kimberly says:

    Ohmygosh, that road rage comment was great! ROFL. But if you can see them flip you the bird, you’ve got better vision then me. Them honking their horn just makes me lose concentration, and I can’t tell if they’re waving me on or not. You are doing really well Rich!

  3. Rich says:

    Actually it’s likely I’d not seem them flip me the finger, just waving the hand out the window. I can’t see drivers in cars. Elaine was telling me a story about one of her other students who that actually happened to in the city.

  4. Nick says:

    I am glad to have found your blog, there is a lot of useful info.

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