In an effort to slow the spread of germs, Santa Clara County is embarking on a mission to replace buttons at crosswalks with touchless devices that will simply require pedestrians to wave a hand in order to trigger the signal.
The effort, which comes amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, started Thursday with the installation of touchless pedestrian crossing devices at a busy intersection near Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
The devices will soon be installed at two dozen more intersections along local expressways and eventually at every traffic signal in the county, Santa Clara County Roads and Airports Department Director Harry Freitas said.
"Traffic engineers normally are concerned with pedestrian safety related to traffic," Freitas said. "In this case, our traffic engineers are thinking about pedestrian safety for viruses. So we're now looking at virus safety for our pedestrians, and that's what this really does."
During the pandemic, pedestrians concerned about touching crosswalk buttons with their hands have resorted to using knees, elbows, shirts, water bottles or any other items. That focus on staying safe and healthy is what prompted the county to take action.
"In this new era of COVID-19, we must be vigilant not to spread germs, especially in public areas with large numbers of people passing through," Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman said. "Now, pedestrians waiting to cross a county expressway don't have to worry about physically pushing the crosswalk buttons or at traffic signals or trying to get creative when pushing but not touching it."