No one should ever have to assume
more risk than they are willing to accept. So when the risk of independently
crossing a street at a given time and place is too high, alternatives should be
considered. This page features a list of such alternatives.
all alternatives are not feasible for every situation, but with careful
consideration and planning there is always at least one that can apply.
some alternatives require years of planning (contacting
the traffic engineer) and others can be implemented right away (getting help or crossing somewhere else).
these alternative strategies can be used by deaf-blind people.
Alternatives: Get help to cross
There are many creative and effective ways to get assistance, including recruiting drivers to get out of their vehicle and guide the person across, going to bus stops or public buildings to request assistance, or calling ahead or using a cell phone to request someone to come help cross.
Principles of getting help to cross streets:
Face the street.
Look like you want help (use a card, gestures, voice, etc. -- click here for suggestions for deaf-blind people to use a card to get assistance).
Explain exactly what you want the other person to do.
You can get help effectively from:
passersby (go where most people go -- corners, bus stops, store
neighbors/shopkeepers (some people ask for assistance at nearby shops or friendly neighbors, others use their cell phone or call ahead and ask store or
business personnel to watch for them and help them cross; one deaf-blind woman used a braille TTY to call a Seven-Eleven corner store whose employees agreed to watch for her and help her cross the street so she could get to the subway and go to work every day).
drivers (hold up a sign with words "CROSS STREET" large enough for
drivers to see, with more detail in smaller print if needed -- this works very well where
drivers are going slowly and they have a place to pull over safely).
If you want to see videos of students (with and without a cane) using a sign to get help from drivers to cross the street, you can click here.
At streets where there is no traffic signal or stop sign, find a place to cross where
you can hear/see the traffic better, and/or where you are more visible.
Sometimes the reason that you can't be confident it is clear to cross is that the sounds and/or line of sight are blocked by a hill or bend in the road, or a parked van, etc.
In that case, you may be able to hear / see further by moving toward or away from the obstruction, such as moving to the bend or top of the hill, or moving away from the parked van, etc. (examples are in Vignette 4 and Vignette 5 of Section 5).
Cross at a place that has better traffic control (a traffic signal or stop sign).
In streets with multiple lanes going the same direction, you can often figure out if there is a traffic signal nearby by listening to the traffic. If the vehicles are bunched together in a "platoon" followed by gaps in traffic, there is usually a traffic signal upstream -- the closer the traffic is bunched, the closer is the traffic signal.
make yourself more visible, for example at night wear bright reflective clothes, use a flashlight, etc. (NOTE, our research suggests that wearing an orange vest during the day does NOT make the drivers more likely to yield).
Make plans to achieve your goal without crossing the street. For example,
use rides and taxis, bus/paratransit, etc.
if crossing the street to catch a bus, get on the bus on your side of the street and take it to the end of the line and back;
shop on line or have home delivery.
Cross only after getting all drivers to yield
When the risk of crossing is unacceptable because drivers are likely to reach the crosswalk without yielding, one alternative is to cross when drivers in all approaching lanes have stopped for the pedestrian.
This may be a viable alternative, for example, when crossing a single, separate right-turning lane.
However this strategy is safe and effective only when:
the traffic has stopped in each approaching lane.
Pedestrians should be aware of the great danger presented when drivers have stopped in at least one lane but not all of the lanes (see "multiple threats").
it is possible to determine with certainty that drivers have stopped.
This is not always possible for blind pedestrians to do -- they can be misled into thinking that drivers have stopped when they have not (see study).
And blind pedestrians may not realize that drivers have stopped in noisy environments or when the drivers stop far from the crosswalk.
Under certain conditions at crossings with no traffic signal or stop sign, be prepared to return to curb
This alternative strategy (illustrated in the video to the right) is intended to help avoid the possibility of any vehicles being able to reach you during your crossing.
It can be effective ONLY IF
a. you can hear or see the traffic well
enough to know whether it is clear to cross at least half the street; AND
b. you know when you've crossed halfway; AND
c. you can turn around and return to the curb.
If you're using hearing, wait until it is quiet (if you are using vision, wait until you see nothing coming), then start to cross.
If you're using hearing and you hear a vehicle approaching from either direction before you reach the middle, or if you're using vision and see a vehicle approaching from the right before you reach the middle:
turn around and return to the curb, and wait for another opportunity to try again.
If you reach the middle without hearing or seeing any vehicles approach, you can complete
This strategy is NOT to cross to the middle of the street and wait!
In many situations, waiting in the middle of the street would be extremely dangerous.
This strategy is to start to cross, but TURN AROUND and go back to the curb if you notice something coming before you reach the middle. If you reach the middle with nothing coming, keep walking and complete the crossing.
You might ask why you should turn around if you hear a car coming from the left, when you know that you would be out of that car's path by the time it reaches you.
It is because the sound of the car from the left may be masking the sound of another
car coming from the right.
Some examples of where this strategy might be effective (and where it would not be effective and why!) are at the end of each Scenario on page 13.
Request traffic engineer to revise or redesign the intersection
You can request that a stop sign or traffic signal be installed at the intersection, but uncontrolled crossings can also be made significantly safer with relatively inexpensive redesign such as:
Slow the traffic with raised crosswalks or humps;
install bulbouts (the sidewalk protrudes into the street, often
cutting off a lane and designating it for parking -- this shortens the
crosswalk and slows the traffic);