A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Misdirection: In search of a button for walk

Written January 18th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

If you could use a short diversion from all the disheartening news about national politics, how about this? Consider that sign on an Albany traffic signal mast and ask yourself: Is that the best way to get the message across?

Push the button, it clearly says. But what button? Where is there a button?

You might be tempted to point your finger the same place the sign finger points and press. But there’s no button there. You can push all you want and the effect will be zilch.

The sign clearly shows a button-like thing that you’re supposed push. A black button. A round little thing, about as big around as your index finger. You can examine that signal mast all day and all night but you won’t find a little black button anywhere.

There is, however, something below the sign. Not a button, but an arrow. If you want to cross the highway and hope for the signal to change to allow you to do that, they apparently want you to push the arrow.

You do that, and sooner or later, the walk signal does come on.

Life is too short to spend any of it, even a few seconds, having to figure out highway signs. So here’s a modest suggestion to the designers of signal equipment: Don’t say “button” when it’s an “arrow” you mean. (hh)

16 responses to “Misdirection: In search of a button for walk”

  1. HowlingCicada says:

    I saw one just like it, maybe in Albany a couple floods ago. But I don’t remember if there was anything at all to press, or maybe I didn’t look long enough. Anyway, very confusing and dumb design.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish Proverb

    I recommend deep breathing exercises to lower your anxiety level.

  3. Patricia Eich says:

    I agree, little things like that are so annoying. Then i feel like I’m the dumb one when I figure it out,

  4. Richard Vannice says:

    Which arrow? There is one on the sign also. Life is too short to fret about such a minor inconvenience. Besides, one should be able to recall what to do after the first experimenting.

  5. Cheryl P says:

    Oh yes…Gawd forbid that a person should have to actually THINK. Why not just have a single button that shuts down traffic in ALL directions?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “… a single button that shuts down traffic in ALL directions?”
      Bingo! Finally someone with the right idea.

      In downtown Miami in the 1950s and 60s, the signals didn’t have buttons, but the walk time was for any direction, including diagonal. Worked very well. It was before right-on-red was generally legal there. Hopefully my memory is correct.
      “””It was first used in Canada and the United States in the late 1940s, but it later fell out of favor with traffic engineers there, as it was seen as prioritizing flow of pedestrians over flow of car traffic. Its benefits for pedestrian amenity and safety have led to new examples being installed in many countries in recent years.”””

      Before anyone complains, I’m not seriously suggesting it as a solution for anything in Albany.

  6. Jacob Jacobson says:

    Yet one more example of a Much Ado About Nothing topic. Perhaps more journalistic effort could be applied to real challenges Albany faces. This non-controversy is mind-numbingly unimportant.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      And yet, amazingly, you felt moved to respond. And once again, this is not the “Challenges Albany Faces And How to Solve Them” blog. It’s a blog about what I see or what I find interesting, not always the same thing. Thanks for reading it, though.

  7. Martin S. says:

    Can’t wait for Hasso’s upcoming essays titled “My Favorite Pet” and “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

  8. George Pugh says:

    You mean those buttons really work ? I thought they were just passifiers for impatient pedestrians. I’ve never found a correlation between when I pushed the button and when the signals changed.

    If we didn’t have those buttons perhaos traffic would proceed more smoothly with regular opportunities for pedestrians to cross.

  9. Albany YIMBY says:

    Let’s eliminate buttons altogether and put some reasonable expectations for motorists that they don’t completely own the streets.

    Let’s also give some reasonable times for crossing and not 8 seconds to run the 100m stretch of Pacific faster than Usaint Bolt.

  10. CHEZZ says:

    I hope someone got a chuckle or even a Laugh Out Loud out of this funny thing! I hear it even lowers anxiety, and makes less wrinkles to smile!

  11. Bill Kapaun says:

    And WHERE, PRECISELY on Pacific is that a problem?

  12. Bill Kapaun says:

    I find them a bit annoying, but then I realized- You don’t see idiots banging away on these multiple times thinking that will speed things up. I find stupidity more annoying.

  13. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Not that it matter, but in my walks, I’ve timed the intersection at Queen & Pacific at 23 seconds…


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