On walk signal, are two buttons better than one?

Two walk signal buttons on Solano Avenue. Photo: Justin Huang

Last week, a local resident asked Berkeleyside about this signal pole on Solano Avenue. He wondered what the purpose of the street-level “walk signal” button was. We posed the question to readers on the Berkeleyside Facebook page, and their answers ran the gamut from the serious to the silly.

Some said the bottom button is for people to kick if their hands are full, or if they don’t want to risk contact with germs. Others said perhaps seeing eye dogs are trained to push this type of button for their owners. Another commenter said he uses the lower button if he’s on a bicycle or pushing a stroller.

Quite a few posters said the button is for people in wheelchairs, though Leprechauns, Lilliputians, squirrels, deer and wild turkeys also were suggested as among its target users. (See all 71 comments here.)

Farid Javandel, manager of the city of Berkeley’s Transportation Division, offered an official response this week: “The low pedestrian push buttons are for activation by wheelchair or by foot. These serve individuals who might have difficulty with the regular waist high pedestrian push buttons.”


Javandel said, via email, he didn’t know if guide dogs are trained to use the buttons, or how many of these signal buttons appear around the city, but that “we try to use them where there is a higher demand for accessible pedestrian service. In some locations pedestrian demand is so consistently high that the traffic signal automatically provides a pedestrian walk phase every time and we don’t need push buttons of either type.”

If you see a mysterious sight around the city, or have a question you’d like Berkeleyside to investigate, please don’t hesitate to let us know via email at tips@berkeleyside.com.