London vs Paris: Accessible Pedestrian Signals

London or Paris? Accessible pedestrian signals feel different across the channel, with their own pros and cons. Which style do you prefer and why?

Descriptive Transcript

Haben is standing at a crosswalk in London. She is wearing a lavender coat and long, gold earrings. She is speaking directly to the camera. Cars and red, double decker busses pass behind her. To Haben’s right there is a pole with a control box. The box has a white plastic button at the front.

Haben: London has a secret, in fact a lot of sighted Londoners don’t even know this.
At many of the intersections there’s a control box.

Haben rests her hand on a small metal cone underneath the control box.

Haben: But what you might not know is underneath the control box, there’s an upside down cone and when it’s time to cross, it’ll spin. So, you can either hear a signal, hear the traffic, or you can feel it.

Haben reaches out and presses the small, circular, white button at the front of the control box. Again, she places her hand over the cone, waiting. The cone begins to spin and a high pitch beeping emanates from the control box. The beeping mixes with the sound of the whipping wind and the engines of passing cars.

Haben and Mylo begin crossing the street, Mylo’s harness in Haben’s left hand and a tan purse hanging at her right. The crosswalk is crowded with people in winter coats and long pants.

A person in a bright yellow, reflective, safety vest walks close behind Haben and Mylo. When they reach the other side, the person in the yellow vest is right beside Haben; he turns and looks down to take a lingering look at Mylo.

Haben is wearing a black long sleeve top, there is a small microphone attached to the collar. Mylo sleeps on a raised surface behind her. They are both in front of a vibrant, blue wall. Haben speaks directly to the camera.

Haben: Now we’re going to Paris.

Haben, in a violet coat, has Mylo’s harness in her left hand. They stand to the right of a metal pole with a yellow control box on the front, at a crosswalk in Paris.

People are talking loudly around them and cars pass quickly making sudden rushing sounds. A bus lets out a single, loud honk. An automated voice coming from the control box speaks in French.

Control Box: Rouge, piéton, Rue de Tilsitt. Rouge…

Haben, again in front of the blue wall, speaks directly to the camera.

Haben: At this intersection there’s a control box. It’s yellow with a figure of a person with a white cane. And under the control box is a button. When I hit the button, I get audio. No vibrations this time. Which is a disadvantage for those of us who are Deafblind and want tactile access. In this case I have some hearing in the high register and the tones happen to be within my hearing range. So now, Mylo, my guide dog and I, are going to cross the street, heading towards the Arc de Triomphe.

Haben smiles as we transition back to Haben and Mylo waiting at the crosswalk. When the high pitched, musical beeping begins, they cross together. The crosswalk is empty as the pair make their way over the cobble stone street and thick, painted white lines of the crosswalk.

In the distance, a large, stone archway comes into view: the Arc de Triomphe.

Haben, in front of the blue wall, speaks directly to the camera.

Haben: I like how musical that sounds, and the tones rise and fall in a way that gives you information about where you are in the walk cycle.

Haben and Mylo reach the other side of the Paris crosswalk.

Haben speaks directly to the camera from her set-up in front of the blue wall. Mylo is still resting behind her, his head hidden by Haben’s shoulder. One of his legs is splayed out next to him, a black paw turned toward the camera.

Haben: Some people advocate for quiet signals because the more noise you add to an intersection, the harder it’s going to be for people to hear cars, trucks, and busses.

Haben and Mylo stand on the sidewalk waiting to cross. A huge, white bus drives close to the curb and Mylo looks up in surprise, he and Haben take a step back.

Haben: And the most important thing, of course, is to avoid those cars and busses.

Back to Haben in the blue room, seated with Mylo behind her.

Haben: So, tactile signals like spinning cones, or other kinds of vibrating control boxes, allow people to get information by touch and clear up the soundscape to hear for cars, if they have the ability to hear for cars. I can’t. So, I’m relying on the vibrations when those are available. And also counting on my guide dog, Mylo, who has been very wonderful in helping me cross streets all over the world. Every place has its strengths and challenges. What are your thoughts on these? What do you think is better? Easier? Cooler? The London crosswalks? Or the Paris crosswalks?

Haben smiles and the video fades out.