Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The Silent Crossing and the Countdown to Death
One of the most infuriating things we discovered when exploring America (or at least San Jose) on foot, is that the pedestrian crossings really do not try to help you in this endeavour.
Firstly, although this is likely just a different convention, the buttons to cross the street are not positioned on the side of the pole facing you as you look across the street, but 90 degrees around the corner. Needless to say we initially spent a considerable amount of time waiting for the little white (not green) man to appear, only to realise that we had pressed the wrong button.
Of course normally you would realise your mistake quite quickly when the wrong crossing signal went off, but here roughly 75% of the pedestrian crossings are completely silent. So not only is there no feedback when you have pressed the wrong button, there's also no feedback that you have pressed the right one as the little red "stop" hand is there permanently. This results in many, many cases of looking up from your ipod/cellphone/conversation, only to realise that you have already missed the crossing and you must now press the button and wait again. If you do manage to catch the crossing before it finishes, it helpfully displays a large red "countdown" to let you know how much longer you have before the SUVs are allowed to mow you down.
I truly pity for deaf pedestrians in America. Not only do they get no clues as to when it's safe to cross the street, the Californian Drivers Handbook (the road code) has to explicitly tell prospective drivers not to honk at blind people. Then again, the handbook also begins with a message from Arnold Schwarzenegger... that's got to count for something.