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City Improves Community Safety During COVID-19 Emergency By Converting Some Crossing Signals to Touch-Free Activation

Post Date:05/05/2020 12:00 PM

DATE:                  May 5, 2020


CONTACT:         Adam Fukushima, Active Transportation Manager




San Luis Obispo, CA - In order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the community, the City of San Luis Obispo is converting some signalized intersections to be temporarily touch-free.  This is an effort to reduce the number of frequently touched surfaces for the public and increase the overall health and safety of the community. 

Automatic walk cycles and new signage will be rolled out to twenty locations with high pedestrian activity. When approaching an intersection that has been converted to touch-free activation, pedestrians can now simply wait for the walk sign to appear without touching any buttons. Selected intersections featuring audible indicators for the visually impaired will also be touch-free.

As the City continues to respond to COVID-19, other areas will be assessed that may benefit from this signal feature.  The effort to make pedestrian signals touch-free during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a successful strategy in other cities across the United States, including Oakland, California and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Push Button Not RequiredPush Button Not Required

“This is an innovative approach, implemented at almost no cost, that protects pedestrians and helps slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” said Adam Fukushima, the City of San Luis Obispo’s Active Transportation Manager.  

Temporary signs have been installed at the locations to notify pedestrians of this feature and the program is subject to change along with the City’s response to the COVID-19 emergency.  To provide additional information to the community about these improvements, the City has developed a Frequently Asked Questions.

For more information from the City’s response to COVID-19, please visit The City is committed to keeping our community informed.

To receive updates from the City regarding COVID-19, please register for City News e-notifications on the City’s website at or follow the City of San Luis Obispo on social media.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Q: Why are there signs on some pedestrian push buttons around the City? 

A: The City of San Luis Obispo is working to slow the spread of COVID-19 by eliminating the need to push crosswalk buttons at certain locations with high pedestrian use or that serve essential services.  Any intersection with signs on the push buttons will have touch-free activation. 

Q: Do I need to press the push buttons? 

A: If there is a notice next to the push button indicating that pushing the button is not required, you do not need to press it.  At the appropriate time, the signal will automatically activate the pedestrian crossing phase.  When a crossing sign is illuminated, watch for vehicles and cross when safe. 

Q: Which intersections will be affected? 

A: 20 intersections will be converted to touch-free activation. Currently, we have implemented these changes at 5 locations:  

  • Foothill Blvd./ Broad St.
  • Foothill Blvd./ Chorro St.
  • Broad St./ Pismo St.
  • Broad St./ Buchon St.
  • Broad St./ Pacific St. 

Map of existing and proposed intersections. 

Q:  There are no cars on the road. Can I proceed if the intersection is clear? 

A: Pedestrians are still required to wait for the walk signal before crossing the street. Please continue to exercise caution and look both ways before crossing the street. 

Q: Will the timing on audible intersections be affected? 

A: No, audible indications for those with visual impairments will work the same as non-audible indications

Q: Why are the changes only temporary and why can’t all intersections feature touch-free activation?

A: Touch-free activation can lengthen the signal time, and ultimately increase delays for transit vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. The City already has a number of intersections that are permanently touch-free within the Downtown Core where pedestrian activity is high throughout the day. Signals that are converted to touch-free action must be considered within the context of safety and impacts to all road users including vehicular, bicycle, transit, as well as first responders.

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