Because I forget stuff. Part of

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Originally posted January 18 2006 at 21:01 under General. 0 Comments. 1 Trackback (now closed). Last modified: 24 March 2006 at 01:01

See/Don’t See


It’s rant time again children ;-) I know how everyone loves that.

I’ve noticed an increasing trend for Puffin crossings over Pelican crossings (links to Wikipedia articles). I don’t like it. I don’t object to the sensors which supposedly work out if you’ve got distracted and wandered off, or are being a little slow in crossing (though I actually have a habit of wandering around a little while waiting for lights to change rather than standing still like some well trained robot next to the little black box). Ah, yes, that little black box. That’s the thing that gets me. The absolute, bloody stupid, sod the users in practice, the theory says this is good positioning of the walk/don’t walk signal (that sounds so American but I can’t actually think of a better description—the little red and green men). For years it was thought adequate to have these opposite, on the other side of the road, where you can see them and, if you are stood around just waiting, are probably more or less looking. Now though, we’re told, its so much better to have them right next to the activation button, on the near side of the road, at about waist height. I have heard not one good argument for this insanity.

The Wikipedia article, and a couple of other things I’ve quickly Googled, make mention of the advantage for visually impaired users. Frankly if the difference between being across the road and right next to you makes the difference between being able to make out the shape of a lit up figure or not then you’re probably much more reliant on the beeps the things still emanate. If you want to help, make those beeps louder, taking account that there might be traffic around, you know. The argument that they’re simply more visible for everyone is tosh too. I don’t know about anyone else but if stood waiting to cross a road I don’t tend to be looking somewhere just next to my right hip bone. For it’s always on the right you see. if you stand facing the road, “to help pedestrians see the traffic too”. Er, what?? For starters, try seeing the signal and past the poll at once. Anyway, last I went outside and looked (today) the vast majority of these bloody things are on two way streets. So if I care about seeing the traffic, I might just look to my left too, to see what the other half is doing. Besides, I thought the idea was that we wait for these signals to tell us (and the traffic) when to cross; so in principle we don’t even need to be watching the traffic. Of course a bit of common sense tells you not to start walking simply because the signal shows a green man (and perhaps another shock here is it hasn’t metamorphosed into a woman in some overly politically correct way). You’re probably going to check the traffic at that point (or be a candidate for a Darwin Award). though surprisingly enough from both directions. And all this traffic watching (well, people do tend to do it, especially when their not allowed to wander off or the signals will second guess us)—given that we’ve established I’m actually sane enough (unlike the designers) to realise there is traffic in two opposing directions, guess where gets looked at the most (or even, where gets looked at if I don’t care about the traffic because the signal will tell me when to go)? Yip, pretty much straight ahead, where the opposite poll is—and old style signals are.

The truly maddening thing is how simple all this is to fix. Just put a signal where right minded people want a signal. There are even these bloody things with two sets of signals on the same poll, one simply higher than the other (which at least alleviates the need to be something out of middle earth for them to be at the right height) but still facing the same way—there’s a picture of that insanity in Form Function Emotion’s treatment of the topic from a year and a half ago. Do that, but rotate it 90°, to face across the street. Keep your silly low level, “traffic facing” signal too, if you must. How hard is that?

Unfortunately I doubt it’ll happen. Somebody somewhere has decided these things are a “good idea ™” and damned the practical evidence. So I’ll have to continue to do what I find myself doing now—peering at an oblique view of the signal which is supposed to be for those opposite.

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Told You So

It must be said that Jeremy Keith knows more about design than I probably ever will. And basically he agrees with me. These bloody things are awful. Please stop putting them in place of perfectly functioning devices. Jeremy makes a... [Read More]

Tracked from IMS_Blog on Jul 15, 2006 at 18:57

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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