CLOSE
YouTube
YouTube

The Illuminated Magic of International Pedestrian Crossing Signals

YouTube
YouTube

The United States ranks 24th in the world in literacy, 54th in education expendature, and 31st in student proficiency in science, but we are worryingly falling behind where it really matters: pedestrian crossing traffic signals.

Half a century ago, America pioneered the use of these lights and was at the forefront of ped-crossing technology. The future was exciting—or, at least, it should have been.

Today, if you visit an American city, you will probably see a boring pedestrian signal with a static little man telling you to walk and then a big red blinking hand letting you know when to stop (and maybe a countdown timer, if you're lucky). Meanwhile, in countries like Thailand, Peru, and beyond, their pedestrian lights are visual feasts. These LED miracles display animated little green figures who actually walk when you're supposed to cross, and then run when it comes time to hurry up.

I won't mince words: These international pedestrian crossing lights are making America look like losers on a global scale. To see what I mean, check out these nine examples below. Some are the same make and model of signal, but they are all set to different speeds, giving each little green figure his or her own personality and walking style.

1. Egypt

*

Walking Style: Ric Flair's Strut.

2. Peru

*

3. Walking Style: Little Cliffhanger guy from the Price is Right.

4. Bangkok, Thailand

*

Walking Style: Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.

5. Mexico City, Mexico:

*

Walking Style: Kramer dressed as a pimp.

6. Santiago, Chile:

*

Walking Style: Tom Cruise sprinting.

7. Manila, the Philippines:

*

Walking Style: John Wayne.

8. Cambodia:

Walking Style: Pat Benatar and her crew at the end of the "Love is a Battlefield" video.

9. Guangdong, China

*

Walking Style: Classic Chaplin.

Bonus: Las Vegas:

*

For a while, it looked like America was catching up. The above lights, which were in Las Vegas, featured ominous, shifting eyes which either told you to look both ways or, if you are an F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar, represent the decay of American society in the 1920s. According to commenters on the YouTube video, however, these kinds of lights were deemed ineffective and have since been removed.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
arrow
technology
Why You Sometimes See Black Tubes Stretched Across the Road
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
David B. Gleason, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you spend enough time driving down the right route, you may notice them: the skinny black tubes that seem to appear on stretches of road at random. But the scaled-down speed bumps are easy to miss. Unlike other features on the highway, these additions are meant to be used by the government, not drivers.

According to Jalopnik, those mysterious rubber cords are officially known as pneumatic road tubes. The technology they use is simple. Every time a vehicle’s tires hit the tube, it sends a burst of air that triggers a switch, which then produces an electrical signal that’s recorded by a counter device. Some tubes are installed temporarily, usually for about a day, and others are permanent. Rechargeable batteries powered by something like lead acid or gel keep the rig running.

Though the setup is simple, the information it records can tell federal agencies a lot about traffic patterns. One pneumatic tube can track the number of cars driving over a road in any given span of time. By measuring the time that passes between air bursts, officials can determine which time of day has the most traffic congestion. Two pneumatic tubes installed slightly apart from each other paint an even broader picture. Using this method, government agencies can gauge the class, speed, and direction of each vehicle that passes through.

Based on the data, municipalities can check which road signs and speed limits are or aren't working, and decide how much money to allot to their transportation budgets accordingly.

For a closer look at how these tubes are installed, check out the video below.

[h/t Jalopnik]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Coord
arrow
technology
Could Color-Coded Maps Be the Answer to City Parking Problems?
Coord
Coord

Driving in a city isn't as simple as traveling from Point A to Point B. For many motorists, it's interpreting the parking signs, scoping out curb space, and avoiding tickets once they've already reached their destination that are the challenges. A new website aims to make the urban parking process a little easier to navigate: As City Lab reports, the new Curb Explorer tool from Coord uses a handy color-coded system to map out which San Francisco curbs are fair game for drivers and which are off limits.

You can navigate Coord's San Francisco street map like you would any other digital map. But instead of just a starting point and destination, Coord asks for more information about your parking needs, such as the day and time you plan to be arriving, the type of vehicle you're driving, and its uses. Based on those variables, the map highlights curbs in different colors that signify their parking availability. Red means no parking allowed, light blue indicates free parking, and dark blue means paid parking. Whether you're looking to park some place all day or for just a few minutes, you can input that information in the system and the map will update itself accordingly.

The new tool isn't just for private car owners: It's also for the employees of ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, who received over 75 percent of the lane-obstruction tickets issued by San Francisco police between April and June of 2017. Since November 2017, the city has rolled out dedicated pick-up and drop-off zones for such vehicles and now Coord makes it easy for drivers to find them.

Coord has a map for only one city at the moment, and even drivers in San Francisco may find it difficult to use. It's not an app; rather, it's a website that can be accessed through mobile, and the focus is just on parking rules rather than finding you a space. But if the technology is successful it may eventually work its way into other cities and even into established navigation apps.

Color-coded city map.
Coord

Color-coded city map.
Coord

[h/t City Lab]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios