I see these all around town and nobody seems to know how to use them - even my German colleagues. We're engineers, so we feel pretty stupid and inadequate around them...

The majority of people I've seen either ignore them or look at them confusedly and try to slap the three black dots - like a cat to a printer - to no avail.

Obviously there are a lot of different kinds, ranging from old and busted to some having mini LCD screens - but only a few are actually press-able buttons.

What's the deal with them? How do you use them?

Berlin Crosswalk Signal Button


Simple answer - you don't. Unless you're blind, as that's who they are designed for. And given that your question started with "I see ..." I'm going to presume that you are, indeed, not blind!

Their purpose is not to make the light turn green, but to allow a blind person to know when it has changed to green.

For the longer answer, refer to this blog post which will give you all the details you could ever want.

  • Thanks, I tried visiting that article from the image I pulled but it wasn't working for me. For whatever reason your link worked. – Qix - MONICA WAS MISTREATED Jan 4 '19 at 4:38

A lot of confusion (among Germans!) probably stems from the very similar and also yellow boxes that Germans have known for decades to be on some traffic lights which call for a green light for pedestrians (see image below).

green light requesting button yellow box

Once my child self had internalised that these should be pressed when you wanted to cross a road (if there was one of those boxes, the traffic lights would usually not grant pedestrians green unless pressed), I started doing it automatically whenever a yellow box of any type was fixed to a traffic light.

However, the type in your picture is actually not pressable; it does not request a green light. It is merely there as an assistance to visually impaired. Well, my instincts trying to press something on that yellow box are stronger than my conciousness telling me that there is nothing to be pressed, so I press …

  • I've yet to come across any such box -for the blind or seeing- that has not at least one button. – npst Mar 22 '19 at 15:15
  • @npst I’ve read on here that there are buttons at the bottom in the boxes for visually impaired but those I never noticed because I tend to use some variation of touch or smack on the front to ‘activate’ the alleged button … ^^' – Jan Mar 22 '19 at 15:48

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