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MUTCD Crosswalk Accessibility Requirements

The MUTCD is a document published by the FHWA that is used by transportation professionals in the U.S. to install and maintain traffic control devices on public roadways. It does not mandate the use of APS, but does provide scoping and technical guidelines for when they are used.


Since it was first published in 1935, the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) has evolved from a 166-page document conceived to standardize road signs and pavement markings to an 862-page guide that has been described as the bible of American road design. It essentially prescribes what is–and isn’t–acceptable when it comes to signs, signals, markings, and other devices used on public roadways.


Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APS) clearly fit into this category, and you will indeed find them in the MUTCD (see Section 4E.09-13 of the most recent 2009 edition). However, it’s important to note that the MUTCD does not require APS at signalized crosswalks–at least not yet. Rather, it provides standards, options, and guidance should state and local agencies decide to implement them (many have, including New York City, which now requires APS at all newly constructed and altered intersections).


This is widely expected to change soon. When PROWAG is officially adopted by the USDOT, all street crossings will be required to provide APS anywhere a pedestrian signal is provided (PROWAG R209.1). The MUTCD will be updated to reflect this change, thereby becoming an enforceable standard. In the meantime, here are the MUTCD standards for APS, “when used.” Further information and guidance can be found here.


General (4E.09)


06. When used, accessible pedestrian signals shall be used in combination with pedestrian signal timing. The information provided by an accessible pedestrian signal shall clearly indicate which pedestrian crossing is served by each device.


07. Under stop-and-go operation, accessible pedestrian signals shall not be limited in operation by the time of day or day of week.


13. At accessible pedestrian signal locations where pedestrian pushbuttons are used, each pushbutton shall activate both the walk interval and the accessible pedestrian signals.


Location (4E.10)


03. If two accessible pedestrian pushbuttons are placed less than 10 feet apart or on the same pole, each accessible pedestrian pushbutton shall be provided with the following features:

  • A pushbutton locator tone
  • A tactile arrow
  • A speech walk message for the WALKING PERSON (symbolizing WALK indication), and
  • A speech pushbutton information message


04. If the pedestrian clearance time is sufficient only to cross from the curb or shoulder to a median of sufficient width for pedestrians to wait and accessible pedestrian detectors are used, an additional accessible pedestrian detector shall be provided in the median.


Walk indications (4E.11)


02. Accessible pedestrian signals shall have both audible and vibrotactile walk indications. 


03. Vibrotactile walk indications shall be provided by a tactile arrow on the pushbutton (see Section 4E.12) that vibrates during the walk interval. 


04. Accessible pedestrian signals shall have an audible walk indication during the walk interval only. The audible walk indication shall be audible from the beginning of the associated crosswalk.


05. The accessible walk indication shall have the same duration as the pedestrian walk signal except when the pedestrian signal rests in walk.


07. Where two accessible pedestrian signals are separated by a distance of at least 10 feet, the audible walk indication shall be a percussive tone. Where two accessible pedestrian signals on one corner are not separated by a distance of at least 10 feet, the audible walk indication shall be a speech walk message. 


08. Audible tone walk indications shall repeat at eight to ten ticks per second. Audible tones used as walk indications shall consist of multiple frequencies with a dominant component at 880 Hz.


10. Automatic volume adjustment in response to ambient traffic sound level shall be provided up to a maximum volume of 100 dBA.


17. If speech walk messages are used to communicate the walk interval, they shall provide a clear message that the walk interval is in effect, as well as to which crossing it applies. Speech walk messages shall be used only at intersections where it is technically infeasible to install two accessible pedestrian signals at one corner separated by a distance of at least 10 feet.


18. Speech walk messages that are used at intersections having pedestrian phasing that is concurrent with vehicular phasing shall be patterned after the model: “Broadway. Walk sign is on to cross Broadway.”


19. Speech walk messages that are used at intersections having exclusive pedestrian phasing shall be patterned after the model: “Walk sign is on for all crossings.”


20. Speech walk messages shall not contain any additional information, except they shall include designations such as “Street” or “Avenue” where this information is necessary to avoid ambiguity at a particular location.


22. A speech walk message is not required at times when the walk interval is not timing, but, if provided: 

  • It shall begin with the term “wait.” 
  • It need not be repeated for the entire time that the walk interval is not timing. 


23. If a pilot light (see Section 4E.08) is used at an accessible pedestrian signal location, each actuation shall be accompanied by the speech message “wait.”


25. Following the audible walk indication, accessible pedestrian signals shall revert to the pushbutton locator tone (see Section 4E.12) during the pedestrian change interval.


Tactile arrows and locator tones (4E.12)


01. To enable pedestrians who have visual disabilities to distinguish and locate the appropriate pushbutton at an accessible pedestrian signal location, pushbuttons shall clearly indicate by means of tactile arrows which crosswalk signal is actuated by each pushbutton. Tactile arrows shall be located on the pushbutton, have high visual contrast (light on dark or dark on light), and shall be aligned parallel to the direction of travel on the associated crosswalk.


02. An accessible pedestrian pushbutton shall incorporate a locator tone.


04. Pushbutton locator tones shall have a duration of 0.15 seconds or less, and shall repeat at 1-second intervals. 


05. Pushbutton locator tones shall be deactivated when the traffic control signal is operating in a flashing mode. This requirement shall not apply to traffic control signals or pedestrian hybrid beacons that are activated from a flashing or dark mode to a stop-and-go mode by pedestrian actuations. 


06. Pushbutton locator tones shall be intensity responsive to ambient sound, and be audible 6 to 12 feet from the pushbutton, or to the building line, whichever is less.


Extended push button features (4E.13)

02. If an extended pushbutton press is used to provide any additional feature(s), a pushbutton press of less than one second shall actuate only the pedestrian timing and any associated accessible walk indication, and a pushbutton press of one second or more shall actuate the pedestrian timing, any associated accessible walk indication, and any additional feature(s).


03. If additional crossing time is provided by means of an extended pushbutton press, a PUSH BUTTON FOR 2 SECONDS FOR EXTRA CROSSING TIME (R10-32P) plaque (see Figure 2B-26) shall be mounted adjacent to or integral with the pedestrian pushbutton.


08. If audible beaconing is used, the volume of the pushbutton locator tone during the pedestrian change interval of the called pedestrian phase shall be increased and operated in one of the following ways: 

  • The louder audible walk indication and louder locator tone comes from the far end of the crosswalk, as pedestrians cross the street
  • The louder locator tone comes from both ends of the crosswalk, or 
  • The louder locator tone comes from an additional speaker that is aimed at the center of the crosswalk and that is mounted on a pedestrian signal head.


10. If speech pushbutton information messages are made available by actuating the accessible pedestrian signal detector, they shall only be actuated when the walk interval is not timing. They shall begin with the term “Wait,” followed by intersection identification information modeled after: “Wait to cross Broadway at Grand.” If information on intersection signalization or geometry is also given, it shall follow the intersection identification information.


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