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Traffic Signals & Pedestrian Crossings

The Traffic Control and Street Lighting Section of Thunder Bay's Roads Section maintains the City's traffic control systems and street lighting.

Pedestrian SIGNAL Safety

Be safe when crossing at intersections.

Pedestrian WALK signalThe WALK symbol will appear for a minimum of 7-10 seconds, followed by the FLASHING DON'T WALK for 15-30 seconds, depending on the intersection.

During the WALK symbol, pedestrians have the right-of-way to begin crossing the intersection within the crosswalk. If the WALK changes to a FLASHING DON'T WALK while you are within the crosswalk, you still have the right-of-way and should complete your crossing.

Do not enter the intersection while the DON'T WALK symbol is illuminated, either flashing or solid.

The City periodically monitors all intersections to detect changes in traffic volumes, and adjusts signal times when necessary.

traffic signal q&a

How many traffic signals are there in the City? Traffic and pedestrian signals

  • The City currently has 107 traffic signals, four of which are pedestrian-activated signals.

How are traffic signals timed?

  • The City's Engineering & Operations Division uses up-to-date traffic counts conducted at each signalized location to decide how much time to give to each phase of a traffic signal. A phase is the part of the overall cycle in which one or more traffic movements receive a green indication at the same time. A cycle can last between 60 and 140 seconds. The purpose of traffic signals is to move the greatest number of vehicles through an intersection as safely as possible.

As a pedestrian, how do I know when it is safe to cross?

  • Pedestrians are allowed to cross the roadway when the WALK symbol is displayed in the direction they are crossing. When a solid or flashing DON'T WALK is displayed, pedestrians are not permitted to enter the roadway.

Crosswalk signal buttonsWhy is the WALK symbol so short? I don't have enough time to cross.

  • The WALK symbol informs pedestrians that it is safe to start crossing the roadway. The WALK symbol will stay on for a minimum of seven seconds, followed by the FLASHING DON'T WALK (FDW). The FDW will appear long enough for a person to cross the entire length of the crossing. While the FDW is displayed, you may continue crossing the roadway but are not permitted to enter the roadway.

What are "APS" (chirp & tweet sounds)?

  • Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) use technologies that supplement traditional traffic control signal technology to assist pedestrians with vision loss in their road crossings. During the WALK duration of the crossing, APS beacons will provide distinct audible indications for each direction of travel.

Countdown Pedestrian SignalWhat are Countdown Pedestrian Signals?

  • Countdown Pedestrian Signals indicate the amount of time, in seconds, remaining for a pedestrian to complete their crossing. The countdown indicates the length of time remaining between the WALK and the SOLID DON'T WALK.

Why do some intersections have advance left-turn arrows and some don't?

  • Some intersections have dedicated left-turn phases for the left-turn movement. This phase is installed if the City's Engineering & Operations Division has determined that there are excessive delays for vehicles trying to turn left, or there has been a larger number of collisions involving left-turning vehicles.

Why does the traffic signal change, when no vehicles are there?

  • Nearly all of the City's intersections feature vehicle detection. However, if the detection units malfunction or need repair, the signal will change periodically to allow a green on the phase in which the detector is not working. In intersections where there is no vehicle or pedestrian detection, the signals will regularly cycle. The City currently uses four types of vehicle detection: magnetic loops, magnetic "pucks", microwave detection and video detection.

Traffic Signal at Arthur St.Why do I have to wait so long for the light to change?

  • Part of each traffic signal's cycle length is a certain minimum amount of time for each phase. Each intersection consists of a major & minor street, in which the major street will use 100% of its dedicated time, even when a vehicle is not present. The traffic signal will switch to green on the minor street when a vehicle is detected, and give the necessary amount of green time up to a maximum allowed. Any green time that is not used on the minor street will be "given" to the major street.

Why can't all the lights be green at once (synchronized) down the length of a roadway?

  • On roadways where signals are close together, coordination between traffic signals is implemented. Many factors go into making traffic signals work together, such as: traffic volumes on all legs of the intersections, distance between signals, operating speed, and width of intersections. The City constantly monitors and makes adjustments to signal time to allow for better movement of traffic.


More information:

To report damaged, knocked-down or missing traffic signs or signals: contact Dispatch at 625-2195, 24 hours a day.