Pedestrians crossing at two popular intersections in Santa Monica can now hear the voice of new audible crosswalk signals designed to help guide the way.

The City of Santa Monica installed the new audible crosswalk signals Tuesday, December 21st, at the intersections of Colorado and Ocean Avenues, and at Ocean Avenue and Broadway.

The city decided to replace standard pedestrian signals at the intersections and install the audible signals, which have “all of the audible features built in,” said Gerald Tom, city transportation engineer.

“We liked the product and it’s a rather new product,” Tom said.

The audible crosswalk signals speak to pedestrians with a voice telling them exactly which direction they are heading and when to cross, he said.

“The new ones are very clear,” he said. “They give a clear direction.”

Other important features of the new signals include a countdown of the seconds remaining to cross and a hand symbol telling pedestrians when not to cross.

The voice of the signals can only be heard when pedestrians are near the sidewalk and not in the middle of the street, he said.

During the day, the audible signals operate automatically when there is heavier traffic, but at night, the signals are mostly button-activated.

The two intersections were chosen as the location of the crosswalk signals by the city disability coordinator because of a high concentration of pedestrian traffic in the area near the Santa Monica Pier, Tom said.

Polara Engineering, a Fullerton-based company, manufactures the audible crosswalk signals, which cost $3,700 for each of the two intersections, said Lynn Mack, Polara sales manager.

Santa Monica had a surplus of standard push-button pedestrian signals for which the city no longer had any use, so the city traded the standard signals for the audible ones, Tom said. The standard signals formerly at the two intersections had chirping and cuckoo sounds, which used to indicate to pedestrians when to cross.

Residents had complained about the noise, saying it was “annoying,” and some visually impaired pedestrians were unable to hear the signals, Tom said.

The new signals, which are designed for the visually impaired, are more clear and effective than the old signals in that they tell people where they are going and how much time is left, he said.

The city is using the audible signals on a trial basis and may install others at intersections such as Santa Monica Boulevard at Ocean Avenue and 26th Street at Wilshire Boulevard, depending on the public response to the new signals, Tom said.

With the new crosswalk signals, pedestrians have a clearer indicator of where they are going and when to cross, which should also have an impact on their safety, he said.

“They’re nice to have because we’ve had problems with so many pedestrians continuing to cross when they’re not supposed to,” he said. “It’s nice to have some extra features and a little more enforcement.”

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