Audible pedestrian signals: a feasibility study

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Virginia Tech

This report represents a concentrated effort that determines the feasibility of audible pedestrian signals. These signals are devices which give auditory cues to help the visually impaired cross safely at difficult intersections. Surveys were sent out to over 100 organizations, audible signal manufacturers, and cities who have knowledge of the devices, and responses were analyzed. The devices were found to be feasible but only at certain complex and confusing intersections. Twelve criteria for the installation of the devices were developed as were twelve criteria for the operation of the devices. Buzzers, constant tones, bird calls, and voice signals were examined by obtaining information from traffic engineers who had experience with each sound. It was determined that intermittent tones were the most effective for human localization. For the most widely used devices, cost data were developed for the products, installation, and maintenance. A partial listing of the U.S. and foreign cities which have the devices was compiled along with a partial listing of audible signal manufacturers. The problems the visually impaired face as well as their suggested solutions are listed. Topics for further study include the use of hand-held devices which activate sound signals at intersections and the development of tone schemes for 4-leg and multi-leg intersections which are not north south and east-west. An additional topic for future study is the development of tone schemes for traffic circles.