The SF Chronicle Asks SFMTA Spokesmodel Paul Rose for Pedestrian Law Advice and He Gets It 100% Wrong: Countdown Timers

Here we go:

Is a pedestrian supposed to stop as soon as the numbers start to flash? Can the walker proceed throughout the countdown? Or, as one letter writer seemed to think, is the countdown really for the benefit of drivers? We asked Paul Rose, spokesman for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, for the answer.

“It’s an awareness tool to let pedestrians know how much time they have to cross the street,” he said. “All pedestrians are strongly encouraged to make responsible decisions on when they should or shouldn’t cross.” But can a pedestrian get ticketed – ha! – for starting to walk when the countdown is near zero? Nope. “They can start whenever they want,” Rose said.”

Now here’s what a countdown timer looks like, in the City and County:

Click to expand

Note that San Francisco peds see an “approved upraised hand symbol” right next to the countdown timer.

Now here’s Da Law:

“Flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol: No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.”

Oh, here’s another stab at this subject:

According to California Vehicle Code 21456, pedestrians can’t walk if there’s a “Don’t Walk” sign or an upraised hand symbol. Anyone who has started crossing after one of those flashes should proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone.

And this appears to be a common ticket handed out to peds near the LA County Courthouse.

And here’s another reference.

Of course Paul Rose is paid to lie on behalf of the SFMTA, so it’s not clear what his intent was.

Oh well.

“V C Section 21456 Walk Wait or Don’ t Walk

Walk, Wait, or Don’t Walk

21456.  Whenever a pedestrian control signal showing the words “WALK” or “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or other approved symbol is in place, the signal shall indicate as follows:

(a) “WALK” or approved “Walking Person” symbol. A pedestrian facing the signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal, but shall yield the right-of-way to vehicles lawfully within the intersection at the time that signal is first shown.

(b) Flashing or steady “DON’T WALK” or “WAIT” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol. No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of the signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed crossing shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety zone or otherwise leave the roadway while the “WAIT” or “DON’T WALK” or approved “Upraised Hand” symbol is showing.

Amended Ch. 413, StaEts. 1981. ffective January 1, 1982″

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2 Responses to “The SF Chronicle Asks SFMTA Spokesmodel Paul Rose for Pedestrian Law Advice and He Gets It 100% Wrong: Countdown Timers”

  1. Susan says:

    Linda: you are correct – and Mta rep wrong- about Ped countdown signals. What gets me is how little time these signals give to legally begin crossing. Even when theres 30 seconds allocated, the countdown timer – which only shows up when the hand is flashing- thres only 5-10 seconds to get to the starting curb. It’s unreasonable to expect someone to wait for the next light cycle when there’s 25 seconds left to cross.
    The timing could be adjusted w/o changing the length of the light cycle by offering more time before the hand flash, say 15 seconds of a 30 second light. Some intersections have 5 seconds of white Ped vs. 15 -20 w/ red hand. The way it is now, mist peds break the law crossing the street where Ped countdown signals are.

  2. sfcitizen says:

    Yeah, I think the regs figure on 2.5 feet per second for peds to get across. That can be a long wait to get across some wide streets…