Pedestrian Safety

Pedestrian Signals

How Pedestrian Signals Work

Although there are only two lights for pedestrian signals there are three distinct phases; the walk, flashing hand and steady hand. 

Walking Person

The Walking Person indication is normally about seven seconds long and tells pedestrians that they may start crossing the intersection. The WALKING PERSON usually won’t stay on during your entire crossing. At some locations, where there are many pedestrians crossing, a longer WALKING PERSON interval may be used.


Flashing Hand and Steady Hand (Don't Walk) 

The pedestrian clearance interval consists of a FLASHING HAND signal. Pedestrians should complete their crossing, however, they should not begin crossing on the FLASHING HAND signal. The FLASHING HAND clearance interval is based on the street width and a typical pedestrian walking speed.


The STEADY HAND signal means that a pedestrian should NOT enter or cross the street. 


Frequently Asked Questions:


Q: Why does the white WALKING PERSON indication turn off before I finish crossing the street?


A: There is a common misunderstanding that the WALKING PERSON indication should be displayed for the entire time required to cross the street. The WALKING PERSON light tells pedestrians that they may begin to cross. The pedestrian protection does not end when the WALKING PERSON light ends and the FLASHING HAND indication begins.  The FLASHING HAND indication means to continue crossing if you have entered the crosswalk and do not begin to cross if you have not entered the crosswalk.


Q:  How do pedestrian signals work?


A: Pedestrians must push the button and wait for the WALKING PERSON to appear.  The traffic signal is programmed to respond to pedestrian demand and allow for a safe crossing of the intersection.  Do not begin to cross if the FLASHING HAND or STEADY HAND signal is on.



Q:  Turning vehicles cut in front and behind me when I cross, even when the WALKING PERSON or FLASHING HAND light is displayed.  What should I do?


A: The BC Motor Vehicle Act requires all vehicles to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.  Some drivers may not show enough courtesy and will attempt to turn in front of or behind pedestrians.  For your own safety, be attentive and watch for turning vehicles across your path.  Make eye contact with the turning driver and be certain that it is safe to cross before continuing.


Q: I am a slow walker and do not have enough time to get across.  What should I do?


A: Always push the PEDESTRIAN BUTTON and be attentive for a fresh WALKING PERSON indication.  Begin your crossing immediately after the WALKING PERSON light comes on.  The duration of the FLASHING HAND indication is the time needed to cross the entire distance from one side to the other.


Q: Why doesn't the light change as soon as I push the button?


A: Just like vehicles, pedestrians must wait for their turn.  Depending on the number of different sequences (e.g., advance green vehicle phases) at the intersection and at what point in the cycle the signal is in, the time for the WALKING PERSON light to appear will vary by location and traffic conditions.  During busy periods this time may be longer than in off-peak times.  Please be patient and wait for the WALKING PERSON light.


Q: Why do some locations have audible traffic signals?


A: Many people have limited or no sight but enjoy the many benefits of walking on their own.  Audible traffic signals, a "cuckoo" or "chirp-chirp", allow them to know when the walk signal is displayed and helps them orient themselves to the far side of the crosswalk.  The City alloctes enough funding to install audible traffic signals at one or two intersections each year on a priority basis that is refined with the input of advocacy groups like the White Cane Club and the CNIB.


Q: Why do some pedestrian signals include countdown displays?


A: Countdown signals show the number of seconds remaining until the end of the FLASHING HAND interveal when all pedestrians should be clear of the intersection.  These are standard at all new traffic signal installations and have been retrofited at some locations with high pedestrian volumes.  They provide pedestrians assurance of the time remaining to complete their crossing.


The typical sign displayed with pedestrian push buttons is as follows:



Description Date File Size
Teach your child to be a safe pedestrian 2014-12-05 2.13MB