Diverse Abilities

Gina Martin

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Audible pedestrian crossings in Canada

A man using a white cane is crossing a road using the crosswalkDo you know what the synthesized sound of chirping birds are for at some intersections? Currently, at some intersections, they are still in use to tell those of us who have low vision or who are blind to know when it is safe to cross the road. Did you know that there are 2 different sounds?  One sounds like “cheep - cheep - cheep - cheep.” When you hear that sound, it means traffic has been directed to stop and you are safe to walk East or West to cross over the North/South running street.  When you hear “coo coo - coo coo - coo coo,” that sound means traffic has been directed to stop and it is safe to walk North or South to cross over the East/West running streets.  

Per the British Columbia Ministry of Transportation, Engineering Branch Traffic, Electrical, Hwy Safety and Geometric Standards. Section Bulletin Number: TE-2011-01, effective 7 October 2011:

Audible pedestrian signals are used to indicate to the visually impaired when it is safe to enter a crosswalk. Currently, synthesized bird sounds are used to indicate the time and direction to cross, with a ‘chirp-chirp’ sound used to indicate east-west direction and a ‘cuckoo’ sound to indicate north-south direction. Testing has indicated the ‘Canadian Melody’ is superior to the emulation of bird sounds as it does not get mistaken for the sound of actual birds, and it is easier to discern in high-noise environments.

Policy: Effective immediately, the Ministry shall use ‘Canadian Melody’ audible pedestrian signals at new signal installations and retrofit existing signals through process of attrition. Procedure: All crosswalks using audible pedestrian signals shall be authorized to use equipment that signals crossing time and direction with the ‘Canadian Melody’.

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