Hi! I am the one who had started the original discussion on the wiki page. I happen to own one of those special devices, because someone gave it to me after not knowing at all what it was. I do not actually need those remotes, but having one did get me to try to learn a bit about them. I hadn’t even noticed that this forum existed, thanks for bringing the discussion here.
The French wiki page has two recordings of the two signals that French traffic signals can make:
On a red light, the signal says Rouge piéton (literally “Red pedestrian”) every few seconds. If it actually follows the road building codes (most don’t), then it will say Rouge piéton followed by enough information to tell which exact signal is red. In that video, the signal says Rouge piéton, boulevard Raspail to tell which street it is for. Some might also say for which half of the crossing, for those with islands, and/or a cardinal direction. That is helpful because whether a signal will hear the radio message from your remote is quite random, and sometimes you can activate a dozen signals at once around you.
On a green light, the signal starts making some strange melody made with bells. It no longer says the street name or any location information, though you might be able to still find the signal by guessing the origin of the noise. You can easily be confused and cross because a different signal went green.
The two videos have been recorded in Paris, where the traffic signals can both be triggered by the remote and have a button you can press. The button is under a beige box. I have been in Paris a few times and have tested both the button and the remote.
I have however never seen those buttons anywhere else in France: every other city only uses the remote. Some town halls will give you that remote for free if you have a disability card, or you can buy one online from various suppliers.
A while ago, a friend told me of a signal that he thought had a bug and was stuck with the sound always on, and that was fixed a few days later. That’s the only time I ever heard of a signal in France that permanently makes noise. So the issue of remote operated signals affects most signals in the country.
That’s my thinking too, which is why I raised the issue in the first place. StreetComplete gives this hint on the sound quest:
Hint: Look out for speakers. Not all sound signals can be activated through a button.
Only a few designs of signals will have a very visible speaker, like this one, but even some brand new signals might have the speaker be completely hidden inside of the casing. So I expect most signals to have been tagged
traffic_signals:sound=no even when the remote was available. In Paris, since it does have beige buttons, it is possible that a mix of
yes (yes, there’s a button!) and
no (there’s a button sure but it’s not activated permanently) have been used.
To add to the verifiability issues, note that the French road building code says the signals can also be activated at set times of the day, with no way of telling what times other than hanging out at the signal for a whole day (perhaps a whole week). I have never seen this anywhere either, but that does mean that
yes might not even truly mean that it emits a sound exactly all of the time.
Well here’s a new problem: There have been some roadworks around here a few months ago, and some brand new traffic signals were installed. They are exclusively to protect a crosswalk, so they never activate by themselves. You have to press a button, which does not cause a sound but actually operates the signal. Of course, that can be documented with
button_operated=yes. But I discovered that using my remote will both activate the sound, and operate the signal! The light above the cross request button starts blinking and the signal goes green after a few seconds.
I suppose that’s still kind of an edge case for now, but if new button-operated signals are starting to have those systems in place, in the long term we may need to address this.
I have e-mailed this association for the visually impaired in my area to ask them about this and for any other entities they could suggest I reach out to. We’ll see where that goes…