We've covered information needed for crossing at modern signals -- in this last section, we share some ideas for teaching it! Please contact us if you'd like to share some of your own ideas here. Here is a list of the teaching ideas -- enjoy!
Determining the location of that near-lane-parallel traffic surge can be confusing to students, so how can we help them learn it?
One approach that is easy to understand, simple to teach, and eliminates a lot of jargon and terminology is to help the student learn a routine of figuring out "Which lanes are next to my crosswalk, and where is the straight-through surge from the traffic waiting in those lanes?"
Here is a suggested procedure to accomplish that (illustrated in the video to the right):
Begin instruction at a typical intersection that does not have exclusive right-turning lanes.
Position the student at the corner, aligned with the parallel street on the left, and ask her, "Where is YOUR crosswalk?" Explain that her crosswalk is the one she is about to walk into and that leads to the far corner where she wants to go.
Once the student can identify her crosswalk, ask her which lanes of the parallel street are nearest to her crosswalk.
Then ask her where the traffic that is traveling in those nearest lanes has to stop when their signal is red so they can wait to enter the intersection.
Once the student can identify the lanes nearest to her crosswalk and knows where the traffic in those lanes waits for the green signal, ask her to practice identifying the surge of through-traffic from those lanes
(if necessary, explain that through-traffic is traffic going straight through, rather than turning).
Once the student can do this consistently, go with her across the street and have her turn around and face to cross back, with the parallel street on her right, and go through the same process.
She should realize that the near-lane-parallel traffic from that corner is the same that it was from the original corner, and
it is now waiting across the perpendicular street.
When student understands where the near-lane-parallel traffic is regardless of whether her parallel street is on the right or left, take her to intersections that have exclusive right-turning lanes, and introduce the complexity that the near-lane-parallel traffic
may not be in the lane immediately adjacent to her crosswalk if that lane is exclusively for right-turning vehicles.
Teaching to memorize alignment with tactile features
Have the student find a physical landmark along the edge of the sidewalk that would be easy to find quickly after pressing the pedestrian pushbutton. Good landmarks include the edge of the grass or the ramp flare (where the bottom of the ramp meets the flare and starts to rise up along the curb, or where the curb starts to slope down at the flare), large cracks or chips in the edge of the curb, or poles, etc.
NOTE: This step is necessary only for corners with rounded curbs. If the edge of the street at the place where pedestrians start crossing is straight, then the student can go there to cross, rather than going to a specific landmark.
The student then needs to get aligned while standing at that landmark, using the sound of parallel traffic. If she cannot get aligned independently, she can get assistance to line up (this assistance will not be needed for subsequent crossings).
Once the student is lined up, have her use her cane or feet to explore the angle of the curb or other linear, relatively straight features such as nearby control boxes and square poles.
When the student has memorized the angle of the curb or linear features in relation to the way she is facing, ask her to step away while you disorient her, and then ask her to find that tactile landmark (or crossing point) again.
Once she is at the tactile landmark or crossing point, ask her to position herself so that the curb or linear features are at the same angle in relation to her body as they were when she was aligned.
Give her feedback as to her accuracy.
Continue with steps 4-6 until she is consistently accurate in aligning.
Test her again days or weeks later, and make sure she can still use those features to align.
NOTE: Once students become skilled with familiarizing themselves with physical features that they can use to align, they should be able to apply it to any crossing they encounter, and the only assistance they might need in the future would be with getting aligned the first time if they can't do it with the sound of parallel traffic.
NOTE: The reason that the student must always go to the same place to align is that with rounded curbs, the angle of the curb changes as you move closer to or further from the corner. It is perpendicular to your line of travel when you are far from the corner, and becomes more and more parallel to your line of travel as you move closer to the parallel street.
Using simulation to teach concepts of traffic patterns
One strategy for teaching concepts of traffic movement is to simulate an intersection while the student and I pretend to be vehicles or pedestrians going through the movements ourselves. The 20-minute video to the right shows excerpts from a 90-minute session with Shawn, who is 16 years old and has been totally blind since he was 6.
Using "live-model" simulation has been be more effective for me to help children and adults understand what's going on at intersections than using a model of the intersection with toy cars to demonstrate the movements. A good example of how physically "being there" can help conceptualize traffic movements and positions is shown in the video (at the 14-minute mark), when Shawn struggles to figure out where a vehicle (represented by me) should be if the driver wants to turn right. He thinks about it long and hard until the moment that I ask him to imagine that he himself wants to turn right, and then he gets it.
I think that people learn better when they discover information themselves, so I didn't explain the traffic patterns to Shawn, I asked him to figure them out. I wish I had thought of making car sounds as we moved and playing recorded crashing sounds each time we bumped into each other -- it would have been more fun!
In the video we can see Shawn getting an understanding of:
Which side of the road vehicles travel on;
How vehicles move or turn through the intersection;
Two common traffic timing patterns for modern traffic signals; and
Where and when pedestrians are usually allowed to walk in each of these timing patterns.
Although it is not shown in the video, he also used simulation to learn:
How the right-turn-on-red (RTOR) vehicles move and where the drivers are usually looking;
Some of the risks for pedestrians (such as from left- or right-turning vehicles from the parallel street, or RTOR drivers) and ideas for reducing them, including the strategy of going around the intersection to avoid a crossing with high risk from turning traffic.