Pedestrian signals: Faster than never

A reader asks:

“Hey, my kids want to know if those cross-walk buttons do anything. So, do they?”

Snarky response:

No, not really. The buttons are there to give you something to do while people with real purpose, and thus in a proper transportation machine with an engine and a big-gulp between their legs, are allowed to go about their day as un-encumbered as possible. There is no value in continuing to push the button other than to feel like you are doing something.

Longer, less snarky, response:

Most, if not all, of the pedestrian signals in Traverse City simply alert the computer that a person un-encumbered by a car is waiting to cross the street and instead of remaining “red” through the next light cycle will show the little green guy for an allotted time.  I’m not aware of any “placebo buttons” found in other cities. The time of the cycle is generally calculated by a walking speed of 3.5 ft per second (lowered from the previous 4 ft/second). There is some discussion among wonks that a more universal, and slower, speed of 3 ft second needs to be instituted more regularly. This would accommodate older people who average 3 ft/sec or lower.