Nearly 50 pedestrian signals, accounting for all the signals operated by the city on Rockville streets, are now automated as part of the city’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.

City signal technicians automated the 48 signals by revising the timing plan that controls the traffic signal timing and sequence. The traffic signals were reprogrammed to be on automated pedestrian recall, which means that the signal controlling software assumes that a pedestrian is pushing the button at every cycle. This will allow the pedestrian to get a “WALK” signal without the need to push the button.

Technicians also posted signs advising pedestrians not to push the buttons to activate the walk signal and alerting them to the automation. The changes discourage pedestrians from pressing the buttons as a precaution against contact with surfaces, which could spread the coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The push button is still exposed to help the visual and hearing impaired feel the button vibrate to signal that it is safe to cross. Those who need it can still push the button to get the vibration and the sound indicating the right time to cross.

The changes require a bit of patience from motorists, who might notice that traffic has a red light even when no one is crossing. Signals are timed so that the walk signal comes up every cycle, giving pedestrians enough time to safely cross while vehicles are stopped, then stopping pedestrians to allow the flow of vehicle traffic.

As always, use caution when approaching an intersection on foot, or by bicycle or motor vehicle. Motorists should always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Pedestrians should always cross at a signalized intersection or marked crosswalk, stopping at the curb and making eye contact with drivers before crossing.