Beg Button, theme and more variations


The picture shows a standard beg button at a crosswalk.

One seldom really knows if these things actually work or are necessary to make the signal change.

The yellow advisory plate pictographic is the city’s obscure way of telling you that pushing the button is mandatory, in this case at least, to get a green walk light.

But is it really?

Looking up, way way up Jerome, there is another arm and on it a black box, with a small red light:


With a bit of practice, I discovered that it is radar, or a motion detector. If you stand in the right place on the sidewalk at the end of the crosswalk a tiny red light comes on the detector, and the light sequence changes to give you a walk light. (This discovery process caused a number of light change sequences on Preston, but hey, that’s traffic calming too).

Curiously, this is installed only the south crosswalk of the intersection, and not on the north side crossing, or the crossing George St W segment.

While I like that some engineer somewhere cared enough to give me an automatic beg button, it is also frustrating, since we don’t know it is there, and will push the button too (or maybe it is there because most people don’t realize begging for a walk light is was mandatory here).

There are simply so many signs, so many variations on crossing protocol, no one really knows what to do. I hate pushing buttons if they are not necessary. And even more hate it when I arrive a second too late and the beg button wont work til the next full light cycle.

Lest you think you have it figured out, they now hook up the crosswalks on each side of the intersection independently, so if you arrive on the west side of an intersection and beg to cross, say, south, and in the meantime cross over to the east side of the street since you have a walk light that way and you intend to go in that direction once you cross the street, you may never get a ped light on the east side southbound crossing because the lights are hooked up independently.

If you are waiting a such a corner, you might see a walk light appear for the other side of your street, and think your light will come when a turn signal phase ends, or something, but you will wait in vain. Your light will never change.

Unless they put in radar too.

And just to keep you really mentally alert, the city now puts in beg buttons that only work at certain times of day. So you automatically get a walk light sometimes, which you might get used to, and thus trained, not push the button, only to discover that this particular time of day pushing the beg button is mandatory and you just missed the whole light cycle.

Only at an intersection with a long long light cycle, of course.

We should be so grateful to traffic engineers for keeping our minds agile and alert.


8 thoughts on “Beg Button, theme and more variations

    1. gordon – true, provided you know to depress the button constantly for five seconds to activate the sound; for the rest of the population, they push futilely … if the only reason a button is there is for the audible signal, why not put a sign on it with a speaker pictogram … ooops, there we go again, yet another sign, yet another complication when walking should be straight forward

  1. The beg button at Rochester and Somerset is mandatory yet, as you pointed out, the signage is vague to non-exsistent. I frequently see people waiting patiently to cross Somerset only to have no pedestrian signal appear (and the wait is on the long side). This is in contrast to the Preston/Somerset intersection down the street, where the pedestrian signal is automatic (and even advance!). The inconsistency really irks me, and does cause some concern – elderly folk from the big tower at Rochester and Gladstone cross Somerset at Rochester with some regularity to do shopping at Wah Shing, and casual observation suggests they have no idea that they need to press the button to cross with a pedestrian signal. The cycle is very short otherwise.

    1. soda: yeah, i cross at somerset/arthur about 2x a month, and can never remember if I get a walk signal automatically or have to push the button, or if others already there have already pushed the button. five intersections, five different operating rules …

  2. When the crossing outside the front of our home at Albert and Preston became a pedestrian nightmare I contacted our councillor and asid she’d have it made automatic, but it was automatic only during rush hour and the crossing can be dangerous at all times. So I contacted her again and now The walk signal is automatic 24/7. I still she early morning people running across Albert against the red light to catch the number 8 bus. This morning a bus driver had to brake quickly to avoid hitting a guy. I could see the driver just through his hands up in frustration.

  3. One comment from east of the west side… I do not understand the signalling in which pedestrians are given no “walk” sign unless they press the “beg button”, whereas vehicles are given a green light even if they have not triggered the magnetic sensor under the pavement.
    To explain, if I arrive as a pedestrian at an intersection and the signal cycle has been triggered by a waiting vehicle, I get no permission to cross and presumably am jaywalking when I cross on the green light. By contrast, If I push the button and get a “walk” signal, a vehicle arriving at the last moment is treated to a green light and is authorized to proceed through the intersection.
    Why are the traffic engineers entering such unnecessary complication into the signalling system? Would it not be less complex to simply switch the pedestrian signalling with the vehicular signalling (and vice versa) so I can walk whenever there is a green light?
    Granted there are circumstances in which more complicated signalling is needed (when vehicles are given advanced green for turns, for example) but churlishly denying pedestrians a walk signal unless they petition for one, seems more a political statement than an engineering issue.

Comments are closed.