Button operated traffic signals

It is not clear to me what one should do with the information button available without knowing its function. (This may be only helpful to request another mapper to complete the function)

I know the following functions which are usually also recognizable on the button

  • Request green (“please touch”, “please press” or a “please wait” indicator but also no indicator at all)
  • Request longer green (walking aid symbol)
  • Request blind function (sound,vibration) (three dots symbol or tactile arrow)

Green light only on button:
Some traffic lights are permanently green for one direction. This is especially the case for pedestrian-only crossings where the road has always green. Here it is quite clear that the button must be pressed to cross in the (main) road.
There are also pedestrian/bicycle crossings at high traffic streets which only switch to green when pressing the button. You can find that out very quickly if you don’t press the button for a traffic light phase.
Here in Hanover, there is a special type of traffic light where you can press the button to turn the light on. For vehicle traffic, these lights only show yellow or red. If the traffic light is off, you can legally cross the road without pressing the button and wait for the light to turn green.

No function:
At some traffic lights, the please-wait indicator comes on immediately when the light turns red again. Here you don’t have to press the button yourself. It is not used by the control.

In Hannover, this is the way for nearly all traffic lights. There are 2 types of switches:

The infamous “beg button” for requesting green, plus there’s often a switch at the bottom that activates a vibration, or makes the switch rotate.

This one has an arrow-shaped button at the bottom to request a beeping sound, plus the arrow also rotates when it was pressed.

The point is, though, depending on the city, state, or country, the default functionality of a traffic light’s button varies. Just tagging “there’s a button” is about as correct as useless without further specifying, what’s supposed to happen when you press it - at least on traffic lights.

I mean … we should probably keep that button_operated=yes simply means that there’s a button, but that information needs refining. And I’m happy @Langlaeufer is kicking off the discussion what and how to tag.


Well, Hannover has always been a bit different … the double button does not really make sense to me, as the acoustic signal is standard on many objects since decades. I dunno why in Hannover one has to press 2 buttons to enable a safe crossing, but as I said already " I don’t say such combination would not exist …".

You mean at the bottom of the traffic light pole? How to press it, if it is at the bottom? Do you have a pic showing both buttons together at 1 pole? Could be helpful for the wiki if further tags for these buttons may be invented …


One of these traffic lights being turned on

This is the same one, but not activated, this time

This is one of those combined “request green” / vibrate when pressed switches. They usually don’t activate sound over here, they only rotate and vibrate. A lot of blind people I know prefer these over the beeping signals :man_shrugging:

OK, probably misunderstood you. You did not want to express:

There is one infamous “beg button” for requesting green = pic 1 plus an additional button as shown in pic 2 at the bottom of the pole that activates a vibration, or makes the switch rotate


either there is the infamous “beg button” for requesting green = pic 1
or the combined button as shown in pic 2 activating the light and having some additional knob/switch at it’s bottom to activate additional sound/vibration/rotation.

In other words, there is 1 button with 2 functions to be activated separately. Is that correct?

Btw: I like the desing of the button in your last pic … :wink:

This is still a button_operated traffic light, no special button tag needed for it imho. The special feature (completely off usually and crossinig is possible without using it) is an attricute of the traffic light itself, not of the button.

Note that asking and voting what “should” mean is not going to change how this tag is actually used.


things change over time. At the moment there is no consistent documentation and no homogenious usage. some mappers use it for any button and some only for reqest green buttons (as defined in streetcomplete). And there will be always mappers which use a tag not correct.
We have the option to keep the tag button_opperated=yes for undefined function and add new values or keys for the specific functions.

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In this case? Probably not, because there’s no clear outcome.

But in general, it absolutely can change how a tag is used because responsible mappers and developers (especially editor developers) will pay attention to, and attempt to support, efforts to improve standardization and consistency in OSM tagging conventions.

It’s not as effective as it could be if the OSM community was more committed to these goals, but it’s worth trying.


probably I didn’t word it in the best way.
I didn’t want to hear what is documented but what people would expect when they find an attribute named “button operated” at an object “traffic signal”.

for new or not well established tags

if you have tag used >100 000 times with some meaning then it is too late to redefine it

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Isn’t it the same you try with surface=fine_gravel?
Surface=fine_gravel 300,000 x

We don’t want to redefine the meaning of button_operated=yes, we want to agree on one of the currently 3 definitions on the wiki:

  1. A button is there, it may or may not do anything
  2. A button is there, and it’s used to request green
  3. A button is there, and it’s activating something - not saying what

Later, we could maybe extend the traffic-lights-tagging by

  1. Possibly adding new values to button_operated
  2. Defining new tags for all the possible buttons that exist

Looking at the currently 17 votes, it looks like there’s a real need to clarify what the tag is supposed to mean :sob:

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Surface=fine_gravel - is it for loose gravel or duplicate of surface=compacted is about adjusting wiki description to how tag is actually used, not about redefining wiki and expecting that tagging will follow.

It is not “what surface=fine_gravel should mean” it is “what surface=fine_gravel actually means” (based on actual use by OSM mappers)

That makes sense (I interpreted " should" in the poll as “I want to redefine what widely used tag means”) - and that would not work well, editing wiki is not going to magically remove uses mismatching new definition from OSM


In Korea, at leasn in my area (Busan), button for sound is much more common than button for green light. It does exist, usually in rural areas where walking is more like work, but I’ve not encountered enough of them to conclude that both can happen at the same time. FYI I have never seen a tactile signal over here.


Just FYI, same in Graz, Austria:

  • The visible, labled and tactile marked button at the front requests the traffic light to switch generally.
  • The hidden butten underneath requests acoustic notification for when green light is active. Often it it indicates the direction to cross in a tactile way. Visual impaired persons know that, others sometime mistake it for other effect.
    This is true for most, but not all devices, models vary.

The device would make an unobtrusive sound every second to allow visually impaired to find it and would only get loud when sound on green was activated by the second button.

Some devices also indicate the number and type of lanes to cross in a tactile way, for exam tram tracks.


To be clear, I’m very much in favor of splitting hairs about a beg button’s functionality if known. What I said, in context, was that mappers aren’t in a good position to judge whether a beg button is useful enough to map.

In a way, many of the beg buttons in my hometown were utterly useless even though they influenced traffic signal timing. You could press the button and wait to cross until you see a green light or hear a chirp, but you’d still have to watch for cars coming at you from two or three directions while doing so. Yet if such a button is present and you fail to press it, you could be waiting a long time.


Most buttons not do anything see here

It depends on the city, I guess.

You mean “Most buttons in San Francisco do not do anything”? World is a little larger than that, though.

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