Crosswalk Signals And Motorcycles

By Miller Langhorne

They're Not Just For Pedestrians

Did you know that the pedestrian crosswalk signals that are designed to help people safely cross the street can also help you be a safer rider?

It’s believed the first pedestrian crossing signal was the idea of a British railway engineer named John Peak Knight. Installed on Bridge Street in London in 1868, it was a manually operated device controlled by a police constable. Its use was short-lived however when the gas used to illuminate the lights leaked and caused an explosion. As motorized vehicles became more prevalent in the early twentieth century, cities realized that something needed to be done to protect pedestrians, and safer signals were introduced in many urban locations. 

What’s that got to do with motorcycle safety? Well, today’s electronic street corner signals are often automated and synchronized to provide safe passage for city walkers. They come in several different styles and if you pay attention to them, and you have good eyesight, they can make your ride safer by giving you information about the traffic signal you’re approaching. 

One of the most common signals is a lighted hand, or an image of a person walking, which will light up in a particular color to indicate whether or not it’s safe for a pedestrian to cross the street. Some also use simple “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” messages. Usually, the signal will light up as a solid red or orange color when people shouldn’t cross the street and white color when it’s safe to cross. If you’re rolling down the street and the crosswalk signal is white, you can assume the light will stay green and allow you to continue. If the light is flashing, it means that the traffic light is about to change. Depending on your speed and distance from the intersection this information can help you determine if you should prepare to stop and avoid needing to lock up your brakes to avoid running the light. 

Some of the signal devices include countdown timers. The countdown will start either at the beginning of the walk phase or will start when the flashing Don’t Walk indicator begins. The numbers may be red or white. Looking ahead for these types of signals can give you, as well as the pedestrians, an indication of how much time is left before the light changes. Again this method is somewhat dependent on how good your eyesight is. But even if it’s only good enough for you to see the numbers counting down, it will let you know that the light is about to change.

Riding a motorcycle requires that you constantly monitor the ever-changing traffic conditions and using the information from traffic control devices such as the pedestrian crosswalk signals can help make your ride safer. 


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