Imagine cu Antonia și un copil nevăzător pe stradă. S-au oprit în fața unei traversări iar copilul a ridicat bastonul pentru a semnaliza mașinilor intenția de a traversa.

Four persons are crossing the street. Two of them, a boy and a girl, are visually impaired and use a white cane

Is the law on our side?

“Blind people are required to have their white cane with them while travelling on public roads”.

The 2023 updated Traffic Code

Regulation, article 89

  1. Traffic participants are also required to stop when:
  2. They see a blind person with the white cane raised, when they are crossing the street.

The 2023 Updated Traffic Code

The white cane, raised by a pedestrian crossing the street on an unmarked spot requires you to: B. Immediately stop the vehicle to allow the pedestrian to cross. Question from the Traffic Code Exam

In the Traffic Code, they mention that the driver is required to stop the vehicle if he / she notices a white cane user trying to cross, even if the place is not marked for this purpose.

The sentence above is quite vague, since it doesn’t offer any details about how we should signal or make sure we are safe. They only mention that the signal is done by raising the white cane. Also, not every driver in Romania sticks to this rule found in the traffic code, even though they might be sanctioned for breaking it. That’s why it’s up to us to take extra measures for our own safety. So, how can we cross the street safely in Bucharest?

Finding the crossing

Firstly, we need to equip ourselves with the white cane and successfully find the crossing we need. There are several resources available that can help you succeed:

  1. Technology. The GPS based apps, like Google Maps allow us to set our desired route. The crossings encountered on the way are announced on the app as crosswalks. The app may have an accuracy of 2 3 meters. For example, it may tell you that you still have 3 meters until you reach the crosswalk, but you hear people on your left waiting to cross. This way you can know you have found it already. Things could go the other way around, the app could announce you have reached the crossing, but you are still unable to identify it. At this point you must find the area that separates the sidewalk and the road and walk along it.
  2. Other pedestrians. People around us are always a good source of information. All we need is some courage to ask for help and to be as precise as possible when we ask, so we can make sure we are getting the proper info or guidance. When we want to find a crossing, we may ask someone around to guide us to the nearest crossing if we know we are close to it. In case we are in an intersection, we could give a specific landmark, such as the building or the street we would like to cross. On bigger crossings, you have more chances to find people waiting for the light to turn green. Using our hearing and ecolocation skills, we may hear the people gathered in front of the crossing and successfully be able to head in that direction.
  3. Acoustic Light, tactile markings or none of this? It’s very useful to know in advance the types of crossing you may encounter on the way. If possible, go with a friend on the route you want to use, and try memorizing what kind of crossings are present from point A to point B. This is very useful, especially if it’s the first time going on that route by yourself. I will list them below:

Two men are crossing the street. One of them is using the white cane and is guided by the other. The outside weather is rainyCrossings that have acoustic signals. This is the most fortunate case, as we can orientate by our hearing. The acoustic signal, if working properly, can be heard from a fair distance. When the light is red, you’ll hear a ticking sound. When it turns green, it will be replaced by a louder, faster beeping sound.

Crossings with tactile pavements. These crossings are usually marked with tactile pavements that have tactile strips or dots on them. They are located in front of the crossing, parallel with the street.

Crossings with small pillars. In front of some crossings, you might find small pillars, with a diameter of a 2 L bottle, and they are usually knee or hit high.

Crossings with sunken kerb / border. The kerb is lowered in front of the crossing.

Crossing without traffic lights with priority for pedestrians. Beware of the sound of the cars here.

Crossings with traffic lights that have a light green button. Some crossings have a chest or hit high, 10 cm device which is placed on a pillar. There’s a button on it which you have to press. It will start making a ticking sound and after a while the light will turn green.

Crossings that have none of the above features. No traffic lights, no tactile pavement, lowered kerb or even pillars. These crossings are encountered on small streets, between apartment blocks or parking areas, where cars are rarely seen. You should be very careful here, listen, raise your white cane and then cross.

Double crossings or L shaped crossings. Crossings from two sides which are separated by a traffic light or a tram track.

It’s important to keep in mind that a crossing may have one of more of the features mentioned above, which make them accessible. For example, a crossing may have acoustic traffic light, small pillars, sunken kerb, and also be a double one.

 

Crossing the street safely

So, since we have got to the crossing, it’s time to cross the street safely. With caution, everything is possible. We have to ignore everything that might distract us, and follow the steps below.

  1. Exploring our surroundings. Firstly, before crossing we should take a minute to analyze the situation in front of us. Here are a few questions you need to answer before crossing. It’s alright if you can’t answer all the question, but every answer you find will give you additional info about how to act properly.
  • Am I the only one around or are there other pedestrians as well?
  • Is there a crossing with traffic light or without?
  • Are there any sounds made by the cars moving in front of me or everything is silent and no cars seem to move? Are there any cars in front of me which are stationary with their engine active? If the answer is “Yes”, it means the traffic light is green and the cars are waiting for me to cross.
  • Are there any cars parked by my side on the pavement? What is my position in relation to them?
  • Is there a chance of not being noticed by the drivers because I might be standing behind a parked car?
  • Am I in an intersection or at a normal street crossing?

Two girls are crossing the street. The photo is taken from the profile. One of the girls is using the white cane. In the baclground we can see blocks and a delivery person riding a bike.

Raising our white cane. In the traffic code they mention that we need to raise our white cane to let drivers know we have a visual impairment and want to cross. The cane could be raised in so many ways: horizontally to the ground right in front of you, parallel to your body or even vertically like a lightning rod. Regardless of which way we choose, we should keep in mind two important things: We need to make the cane visible to the drivers and to make sure we are safe.

Tip: The best way we can make sure our cane has a greater visibility is raising it straight ahead, parallel with the ground.

  1. The car sounds represent one of the most accurate info we can get from the environment, all we need to do is listen. By paying attention to the sound they make, we can find out if the cars are moving or if they are waiting at the traffic light. The cars that are standing still have a specific engine sound. Do not cross until you are completely sure that there’s no danger in front of you or the cars are stopped. By listening to the cars, you may get other useful info like the direction they are coming from, how many ways the street has and if you’re at an intersection or not.
  2. Patience is key. If you made it to the crossing and the light is already red, it is recommended to wait for the next green light. You cannot know how long it will take for the light to turn green and you may not want to be the middle of the street when it turns back red. For extra safety, wait one more second after the light turns green. There are some drivers who are not patient enough to wait for the next light change, so they may accelerate right before it turns green. This single second might prevent serious accidents.
  3. Aligning our body properly before crossing. Aligning our body properly in relation with the street and crossing so we make sure we’re keeping our direction straight and safely get to the other side of the street. For this, we may use the square off method, which consists of positioning our heels right next to the edge of the sidewalk, and then go straight ahead from that point. Be careful though, this method is not going to work if the edge is curved or if it has a diagonal angle. The sidewalk must be straight, on a perpendicular angle with the street. Fortunately, most crossings are made that way.
  4. Crossing the street. When you are sure that all the cars are stopped, you may begin crossing, using the rolling method or the tapping one.

Tip: The steps listed above only work if you’re crossing on your own. If you don’t feel confident enough to do it yourself and there are people around who could help, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for help. The more we interact with the others around us, the better sighted people will learn how to interact with us. This way we can contribute to a much better and inclusive society, breaking barriers and prejudices. If there are pedestrians around you waiting to cross, you can ask them to tell you when the light turns green and explain that you can do the rest by yourself. In most cases they will tell you whether the light is green or red if they notice your cane.

Disclaimer. This piece of information is just an advice, not an actual regulation. It is based on empirical conclusions we have drawn based on our experience of working with blind and visually impaired people during AMAIS projects like the CMU Urban Mobility Club and CMU School. The advice you’ve found here is going to be improved, depending on the feedback and tips given by the community. We would like this article to become a useful resource for blind people who are trying to mingle the twisted ways of Bucharest, helping them find their way towards independence. Everybody’s way is different, so there is no rule set in stone on how long should it take until we reach our destination, you are the only one who can set it. It’s our responsibility to find the safest ways of doing things, depending on the situation we are in. And it’s completely fine to choose being guided by someone, if you think a particular situation might put you in danger or if you don’t feel confident to walk on your own yet. When this will happen though, I hope you will find this resource useful.

If you’d like to share with us your urban experiences or you have any suggestion on how we can improve this article, you can leave us a message at contact@amais.ro.

Together we build an inclusive society!

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