Tactics

Pedestrian-Detecting Traffic Signals

Pedestrian detectors can activate a pedestrian traffic control device, extend the crossing time for pedestrians already in the crosswalk, and shorten the crossing time if pedestrians have already cleared the crosswalk. Detectors can be pressure mats at the waiting area, infrared or microwave detectors mounted on the signal pole, or video cameras using remote sensor software at the waiting and crosswalk areas.

Guidance
  • Use Livewire or Bluetooth technology to set up and adjust the detection area without having to physically create or adjust zone boundaries
  • Integrate ADA/PROWAG requirements into design elements, including ramp grades
  • Provide adequate passing space around the waiting detection area on the sidewalk
  • Clearly indicate the waiting and crossing detection zones for pedestrians
  • Install accessible pedestrian signals to provide the signal information to pedestrians who are blind or visually impaired
  • Provide nighttime lighting to increase pedestrian visibility and detector accuracy
  • Encourage pedestrian compliance through signals that respond within a matter of seconds to a pressed button or detected pedestrian, especially in school zones
Benefits
  • Increases pedestrian visibility at night through automatically activated lighting
  • Stops vehicles only when pedestrians approach the crosswalk
  • Activates the pedestrian phase with the presence of every pedestrian
  • Extends the clearance interval to give pedestrians already crossing the street more time to get to the other side
Considerations
  • Funding for pedestrian-passive sensors systems
  • Experts don’t know the comparative safety effectiveness of passive pedestrian systems versus manual push button systems
  • Pedestrians may not wait for the signal to change before crossing
  • Pedestrians who are blind may not stand or walk in the necessary location to trigger the walk signal or extend the crossing interval
Where to Use It
  • Signalized intersections in areas with seniors, children, or pedestrians with mobility challenges
  • Unsignalized intersections with light pedestrian volumes
  • Mid-block crossings
Professional Consensus

Passive detection devices are allowed in Section 4E.08 of the 2009 MUTCD

Examples
  • The Puffin crossing system, which includes passive pedestrian detection in waiting and crossing zones, is now the U.K. standard for intersections and mid-block crossings
  • Puffin facilities incorporating passive pedestrian detection in waiting areas and crossings are in trial in Australia and New Zealand

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.