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Public buses warn pedestrians to watch their step

18 March 2011












A handful of cities in the US are running pilot programs to test an automated voice warning system on buses to alert pedestrians before they cross the street.

Ten buses in Portland were recently equipped with an external audible warning system. The units are installed in the steering column and when the wheel hits a 45-degree angle, the alert is triggered, announcing in English and Spanish, “Pedestrians, bus is turning.” Two external speakers are mounted onto both sides at the front of the bus and announce when the bus is making a turn.

Each bus has a circuit board located behind the driver, who can set the steering point at which the voice is triggered, the announcement’s volume and the frequency of the warning. For example, at midnight a driver may want to lower the volume to avoid disturbing nearby neighborhoods.

“We are testing whether the audible announcement helps pedestrians and bicyclists be more aware of the bus turning; we’re asking does it help them be safer?” said Mary Fetsch, spokeswoman for TriMet.

Cleveland was the first city to adopt the audible voice warnings. "Since the devices were installed in April 2010, the city has had zero bus-pedestrian collisions from left- or right-hand turns", said safety director of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Pamela McCombe. She attributes that to the automatic voice system.


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