Where are the Chirps for Blind People?

Chirps in some parts of town, not others

I recently took a trip up to Camino Arroyo near Costco, where I had my tires replaced. With an hour or so to burn, I took a walk with my kids and discovered that none of the crosswalks included an audible chirp when it was time to cross. Neither was there an accompanying voice to notify the walker, or a blind person, for that matter, that it was safe to move. These are such busy intersections—it doesn’t make sense that there are no guides to help people to prepare to cross. Traversing one of these intersections without enough time is dangerous and with two kids in tow, I could have easily missed my moment. What would it take to get an audible signal at these crosswalks?


Thank you, good caller, for bringing this safety issue to the attention of the city. I contacted Gilroy traffic engineer Henry Servin, who has provided in the past many answers that interest the citizens of Gilroy.

Red Phone asked if there were any laws requiring these devices at crosswalks. Servin said, “The Camino Arroyo/Linsteadt Way signal was built several years ago, prior to the chirp and tweet standards becoming common. The only state or federal law back then required audible devices at known blind centers, schools for the blind, or where a walking path with a considerable number of sight-impaired folks would travel.”

Asked if Gilroy provides any audible devices, Servin said, “Since 2010, Gilroy has included audible and tactile feedback at all new traffic signals. Where we do extensive signal modification work, 10th Street at Monterey most recently, we upgraded the pedestrian push buttons to audible and tactile devices.”

The tactile devices mentioned here are those yellow mats embedded in the concrete walkway with a surface pattern of domes which alert the vision-impaired of the approach of street crossings, drop-offs, and vehicular routes.

Asked why Camino Arroyo does not have these detectable devices, Servin said, “We will look at Renz/Camino Arroyo of course, but we are trying to first retrofit those signals with higher pedestrian usage, notably in downtown and at the larger schools.”

Servin added, “The system requirements are quite expensive as each push-button has to not only communicate with the master controller but with each other as well, to follow the path of travel of the pedestrian. Furthermore, the audible portion of the device is background sensitive, louder when ambient traffic noise is louder and quieter at night or at lightly travelled periods in the day.”

Servin continued, “The upgrade of the pedestrian push button system can range between $8,000 and $22,000 depending on the size of the intersection.”

Servin reported that in 2013, the Girl Scouts held a cookie sale to pay 25 percent of the cost to upgrade traffic signals at the intersections of 10th and Monterey, and Princevalle and Luchessa. Servin said, “Kudos to them!” Red Phone totally agrees!

So, what does it take to get these upgrades to existing traffic intersections with crosswalks? Call Gilroy Public Works Department at (408) 846-0451.