Traffic signals & systems

Home / Roads & Transportation / Traffic / Traffic signals & systems
Signals & flashers

Become familiar with these traffic signals and flashers to ensure you remain safe when crossing an intersection as a pedestrian, stop at the appropriate place as a motorist and drive safely. 

Vehicle activated signals

All full intersections in Kelowna are run by intelligent controllers that detect the presence of vehicles. The detection systems are either cameras (video or infra-red) that “see” vehicles or loops in the ground that detect the metal in the vehicle above.

Both systems detect vehicles that are just behind the stop-bar and send a request to the controller to get a green light. It’s important to stop in this detection zone, otherwise you may not get the green light as the system doesn’t sense your presence.

If the system senses heavy vehicle flow in any direction, it will increase the green time automatically to maximize flow through the intersection. The system will reduce the green time when there is less demand.

Some of the main arterial corridors (for example Springfield and Glenmore) are “coordinated” at the peak traffic times of the day, meaning the signals on the route are all working together to maximize green time along its length. This helps to move traffic efficiently and minimize start and stopping delays.

Pedestrian activated signals

For pedestrians wanting to cross the street at an intersection:

  • Push the button on the signal pole when you want to cross the street. This will send a signal to the controller. Your wait time depends on where the intersection is in the cycle and how much traffic flow there is. You may wait a little longer when traffic flow is heavy or the signals are in coordination during peak times. Pushing the button multiple times doesn’t make the lights change quicker.
  • When it’s your time to cross, the “Walk” symbol will illuminate for eight seconds. This is the time to enter the crosswalk.
  • After the eight seconds, the “Don’t Walk” symbol flashes. At this time, don’t enter the crosswalk. If you’re already in the crosswalk, there’s no need to panic; the “Don’t Walk” time lasts long enough to allow pedestrians to complete the crossing and is based on the width of the road.
Pedestrian warning flashers (yellow flashers)

Pedestrian warning flashers are in place in numerous locations around the city to warn motorists that pedestrians are attempting to cross the road. These devices are used where a full traffic signal or pedestrian signal isn’t warranted.

At these crossings, press the button and wait until the road is clear or the vehicles have stopped before entering the crosswalk.

Red light cameras

ICBC has a province-wide, red-light camera program to improve safety at high-risk intersections. The program places intersection safety cameras (commonly known as red light cameras) at five of the highest risk intersections in Kelowna to deter drivers from running red lights.  

The cameras are found on Harvey Avenue at Banks, Spall, Cooper and Gordon Roads, and also at the intersection of Dilworth Drive and Springfield Road. The goal of the program is to prevent collisions, injuries and fatalities. Ticket revenue is distributed among all municipalities across B.C. to enhance their policing and community-based public safety programs. Visit icbc.com for more information.

Highway signals

Traffic signals along Highway 97 and Highway 33 are controlled and maintained by the province's Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. We work closely with the province to optimize signal performances in street approaches along the highway. 

One of the most frequent topics of discussion regarding Highway 97 is traffic signal priorities.

Signal priority setting

The first priority of this provincial highway corridor is the efficient movement of traffic. The next priority is for vehicular and pedestrian traffic crossing the highway. The last is left turning vehicles. 

The signals are programmed to allow for the maximum flow of traffic along the highway, and any additional time taken - such as providing time for left-turn signals - will take away time for crossing vehicles and pedestrian traffic. 

For more information, contact the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure at 250-712-3660 or use the online form to provide feedback and ask questions at Tell TranBC

Frequently asked questions
What criteria is used to determine new signals?

Traffic and pedestrian signals are implemented on a warrant system, based on the guidelines of the Transportation Association of Canada. We perform turning movement counts at major intersections and apply these numbers to the warrant process. The highest scoring intersections are considered for traffic signals. 

Other criteria that are used to determine the need for traffic signals include: 

  • Delay to side street traffic 
  • Collision history
  • Pedestrian activity/delay
How does a traffic signal know if a vehicle and/or a pedestrian is present?

The vehicle detection systems are either cameras (video or infra-red) that “see” vehicles, or loops in the ground that detect the metal in the vehicle above.

Both systems detect vehicles that are just behind the stop-bar and send a request to the controller to get a green light. It’s important to stop in this detection zone, otherwise you may not get the green light as the system doesn’t sense your presence

Pedestrians must push the button on the signal pole when they want to cross the street. This will send a signal to the controller. Your wait time depends on where the intersection is in the cycle and how much traffic flow there is. You may wait a little longer when traffic flow is heavy or the signals are in coordination during peak time. Pushing the button multiple times doesn’t make the lights change quicker.

Is it necessary for me to push a button to activate the pedestrian signal?

The only place where a button doesn’t need to be pushed to get the walk signal is downtown on Bernard Ave. The priority of this area is for pedestrian traffic, so the system is set-up to bring up the “Walk” symbol automatically.

Why do some signals, which have pedestrian displays, show a “Don't Walk” indication even when the signal is green for the side-street (minor road)?

The light for the vehicles and the pedestrian indication operate independent of each other. If a pedestrian hasn’t pushed the button, the pedestrian walk phase won’t come up.

If a button isn’t pressed and the traffic controller detects a vehicle, a green signal will be displayed along with a "Don't Walk" indication for pedestrians. The walk time for a pedestrian is much longer than the time it takes for a vehicle to cross, so bringing up the “Walk” sign when there are no pedestrians decreases the efficient traffic flow. The system serves to minimize delay for the heavier volume of traffic on the major road.

I get halfway across the street and the “Flashing Don't Walk” indication appears. Do I still have enough time to complete my crossing?

Yes. The “Walk” symbol is up for eight seconds and is the time for pedestrians to enter the crosswalk.

The flashing “Don’t Walk” will give enough time to safely complete the crossing, but if you haven’t started crossing before this is displayed, don’t enter the crosswalk and wait for the next cycle.

The time of the flashing “Don’t Walk” is calculated based on the width of the road and the type of user - generally, 1.2 seconds per meter of crossing. If there are lots of elderly or children, this can be reduced to 1m meter per second.

Why does the left-turn green arrow sometimes work and other times not?

Left-turn advance signals can be programmed to work during certain times of the day - for example, the majority are turned off at night.

They are also traffic dependent. If no vehicles are detected behind the stop-bar in the left turn lane, the arrow will not come up.

Some are also set to only show when there is more than one vehicle detected in the turning lane. One vehicle can turn with the flow of traffic, whereas more than one may need help and therefore the arrow is displayed.

I have to wait a long time to turn left because the existing left turn green arrow is too short. Why can't the city allocate more green time to the left turn green arrow so that left turn delays can be decreased?

The development of signal timing is a delicate “balancing act” and we try to allocate movement fairly to all directions, based on demand, but there is only so much time in each cycle: the time the lights take to go from green in one direction, serve all the other directions and get back to green again on the first direction.

For instance, if we add more time onto a left-turn priority feature, we must remove “green” time from other traffic movements. A 60-second cycle length only has 60 seconds, regardless of how the time is allocated. If we give more time to left turns, it takes time away from other directions. Think about it this way: in 10 seconds we can typically accommodate four left-turning vehicles. If we’re holding up two lanes of opposing traffic, this same amount of time applied to that through traffic can accommodate up to 12 vehicles. 

What are some of the common signal myths?

If you back up and drive forward again, the signal willchange quicker  
The detection zones are directly behind the stop-bars. Once a vehicle stops there, a call is put into the system. Moving out of the detection zone can actually lose the call, making the wait longer. 

If you get out of your car and push the pedestrian button, the green light will come on quicker 
A vehicle being detected and a pedestrian pushing the button both put a call in the system. One is not quicker than the other. 

Vehicle detection is by pressure or weight sensor 
Sensors don’t work by weight. They are either cameras (video or infra-red) and mounted on the traffic signal arms, or inductive loops cut in or below the road. The cameras “see” the vehicles and the loops sense the metal components.