Town Officials Call for Improved Pedestrian Crosswalks with Uniform Countdown Timers, Audible Signals


East Avenue and Cherry Street in New Canaan.

Officials say they’re looking to install new pedestrian signals at crosswalks in New Canaan that will include a “countdown” timer for those seeking to cross the street as well as an audible signal for the visually impaired.

There’s little consistency in how the crosswalk signals in town function, according to New Canaan Police Department Community Impact Officer Nicole Vartuli, who focuses on the downtown in her role. 

Vartuli told members of the Police Commission at their Sept. 21 meeting that she received a complaint from a blind resident regarding the crossing signals at Cherry Street and East Avenue, and that prompted her to look at other areas.

“I noticed they were not uniform and they looked different—some had audible, some did not,” Vartuli said at the meeting, held at police headquarters and via videoconference. 

Pedestrian fatalities are rising each year and have doubled since 2013, Vartuli said, due to quieter electric vehicles and increased distracted driving. 

Vartuli said she connected with Public Works Director Tiger Mann and then put together a proposal for the Commission regarding the crosswalks. It calls for the town to look at eight downtown locations, Mann said, six of which are state-owned and two of which are owned by the town (at Park and Elm Streets, and at Park and Pine Streets).

Commission Chair Paul Foley commended Vartuli for her work and said he would follow up by looking at a crosswalk in New Canaan that already has a countdown timer and audible pedestrian signal or “APS” at 60 decibels, at New Norwalk Road and Lakeview Avenue.

According to Mann, over time crosswalk signals that reach the end of their useful lives are replaced with whatever device is called for by state regulations, so that some have countdown timers or APS and some do not. 

“So this would standardize us,” Mann said. 

He added, “I think that in the downtown area it’s a good idea to do this.”

Mann said the town engineer could work with the state on a plan to upgrade the signals so that they’re uniform.

Most pedestrian crosswalk signals in town also do not have a countdown timer informing those walking across the street how much time they have before motorists get a green light—rather, they just start flashing when people are allowed to cross and then stop after a set period of time, Mann said.

Vartuli said, “I also noticed for individuals and juveniles without disabilities, as I’m downtown most often, they are looking at their cellphone and it’s time to cross and they don’t see it and when they look up it’s too late and they are running across as the red hands are already up. So if the audible was there it would trigger someone to know.”

3 thoughts on “Town Officials Call for Improved Pedestrian Crosswalks with Uniform Countdown Timers, Audible Signals

  1. Totally support – but DPW please start with fixing the “call button” on the cross walk at the train station for crossing Park Street. I don’t think it has really worked for months (brought it up to DPW in the Spring think it worked for a bit and last I checked it did not). Basically you need to wait for a person on the other side of the street to press the button or dash across Park Street, which I often do with kids in tow. This is a high use corner with so many people coming into town from the train.

    • From the DPW: “ Thank you for your comment. The traffic control cabinet at Park and Elm Streets was recently replaced in order to rectify the issue with the crosswalk pushbutton from the Train Station across to Starbucks. The cabinet was reaching the end of its useful life and our maintenance costs were increasing to the point where replacement was warranted. We received BOS approval for replacement of the cabinet in December, 2021, and only took delivery of the unit last week due to supply chain issues. Unfortunately, upon replacement, an additional issue with the underground wiring between the cabinet and pushbutton was noted. The First Selectman approved replacement of this wiring earlier this week and the work is being scheduled shortly (hopefully mid-week next week.) We appreciate your understanding.”

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