Question: Why do some Dubuque intersections not have crosswalk countdown timers for pedestrians?

Answer: As the City of Dubuque replaces and adds pedestrian traffic signals, new signals will include countdown timers, while the older versions might only have a flashing hand.

“It’s a timing issue,” city civil engineer Dave Ness said, explaining that it would be costly to switch every signal in town at once.

At some spots, such as the intersection of John F. Kennedy Road and Northwest Arterial, pedestrians might see both types of signals.

The older signals begin with a walk symbol and quickly transition to a flashing hand. Newer signals start the same way, but include a countdown alongside the flashing hand.

“Our goal is to get them all counting down in the future, but it is an expensive process,” Ness said.

Regardless of which type of signal is up, there is a standard formula for determining how long pedestrians have to cross. This ensures that crosswalks across the country function similarly.

The standard rate is 3.5 feet per second. For a 100-foot crossing, that amounts to about 28.5 seconds.

The walk symbol typically will appear for the first 5 to 10 seconds.

“Some people think that ‘walk’ is when you’re supposed to get across,” Ness said.

In reality, the walk symbol indicates that it is safe to begin crossing. When the signal switches to a flashing hand, pedestrians still have time to get to the other side.

The flashing hand indicates that pedestrians should not start crossing, as some of the allotted time has already passed.

Ness said including a timer can help prevent confusion by letting pedestrians know exactly how much time they have left.

“That’s the beauty of the countdown,” Ness said. “It lets you know how long you have to get across.”

Question: If I’m traveling west on West 10th Street in Dubuque and come to a red light where the street curves to intersect with Bluff Street, can I legally make a left turn after stopping and checking for oncoming traffic?

Answer: Yes. Drivers in the left-most lane can turn left on red at the 10th Street and Bluff Street intersection.

According to the Iowa Driver’s Manual, it is legal to turn left at a red light if you are turning from the left lane of a one-way street onto another one-way street.

Dubuque Police Department Lt. Ted McClimon confirmed that this is the case for the Bluff and 10th Street intersection but reminded drivers that vehicles in the right lane must wait until the light turns green to turn left onto Bluff.

Tenth Street runs from Bluff Street to Elm Street. In the block between Bluff and Locust streets, the curved section of 10th Street only is used by drivers heading west. Bluff and Locust also are both one-way streets at this location.

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