Pedestrian Crossing Signals

Posted by on May 24, 2012
Der Ampelmann

If your pedestrian crossing signal looks like this, you might not be in Kansas anymore.

The pedestrian crossing signals downtown have been upgraded to make them much more friendly. At least, I think that’s what they were going for. Now, when you push the button, a disembodied voice politely but firmly announces, “wait!” If you push the button again, you’re reminded that you need to “wait!” No matter how many times you push the button, the little man in the box patiently advises you of what you should do.

If I had designed this crossing signal, I wouldn’t have made it be so patient. After about the fifth time the button was pushed, I would have had it say: “Don’t be so impatient! Do you want to get hit by the train or something?” And after the tenth time, the little man in the box would give up and exclaim: “Fine! Do whatever you want, but don’t come crying to me when that crazy guy in the red Volkswagen runs you over. I see him go by here every day, and trust me, he’d do it!” Maybe this is why I’m not allowed to design pedestrian crossing signals.

Once the traffic is clear, the whole tone of the situation changes. You’d expect the polite man inside the pole to say something like, “walk,” or, “proceed,” or even, “you may now cross the street, and I hope you have a wonderful day!” But no. That’s not what happens at all. Instead, you are commanded to get yourself across the road by a series of rapid-fire sounds that sounds like, well, rapid fire. The message here seems to be that the patient man inside the pole has had more than enough of you, and you’d better get while the getting’s good. I suppose I might also feel a bit disgruntled if I were a little man in a pole telling pedestrians to wait their turn, but I don’t think it’s worth getting so worked up over. Fortunately, the pole-man’s rage quickly subsides and he returns to patiently telling the next group of pedestrians that they need to wait.

So, next time you’re downtown, be nice to the unfortunate little man inside the pedestrian crossing signal. He obviously has a terrible job, and I think he might be just a bit unstable.

One Response to Pedestrian Crossing Signals

  1. Irvin

    You have published an incredible site.

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