Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


A pedestrian signal with a countdown timer module. Source: Designing for Pedestrian Safety

Source: Carl Sundstrom (2008) A pedestrian signal push button.
Source: Carl Sundstrom (2008)




Pedestrian Signals

The international pedestrian symbol signal is preferable and is recommended in the MUTCD. Existing WALK and DON’T WALK messages may remain for the rest of their useful life but should not be used for new installations.1 Pedestrian signals should be clearly visible to the pedestrian at all times when in the crosswalk or waiting on the far side of the street. Large pedestrian signals can be beneficial in some circumstances (e.g., where the streets are wide). Countdown pedestrian indications are required for all newly installed traffic signals where pedestrian signals are installed. They must be designed to begin counting down at the beginning of the clearance (flashing DON'T WALK) interval and can be on fixed-time or pushbutton operation.

Pedestrian detectors at traffic signals may be pushbuttons or passive detection devices, which register the presence of a pedestrian in a position indicative of a desire to cross, without requiring the pedestrian to push a button. Pedestrian pushbuttons should be well-designed and within reach and operable from a flat surface for pedestrians in wheelchairs and with visual disabilities. They should be conveniently placed in the area where pedestrians wait to cross and should clearly indicate which pedestrian signals will be activated. Quick response to the pushbutton or feedback to the pedestrian registering the signal’s actuation should be programmed into the system. Section 4E.09 within the MUTCD provides detailed guidance for the placement of push buttons to ensure accessibility.1

Some passive detection devices are capable of tracking the progress of a pedestrian as the pedestrian crosses the roadway for the purpose of extending or shortening the duration of certain pedestrian timing intervals. Accessible pedestrian signals that provide supplemental information in non-visual formats (such as audible tones, speech messages, and/or vibrating surfaces), as described in the MUTCD, may be provided.1 Much more extensive information on the use of accessible pedestrian signals (APS) and the types of APS technologies now available is provided online at


Pedestrian signals should be used at traffic signals under a wide variety of conditions related to pedestrian activity or guidance, according to the MUTCD. Pedestrian signals provide positive guidance to pedestrians regarding the permitted signal interval to cross a street and prohibit pedestrian crossings when conflicting traffic may impact pedestrian safety. The use of WALK/DON’T WALK pedestrian signal indications at signal locations are important in many cases, including when vehicle signals are not visible to pedestrians, when signal phasing is complex (e.g., there is a dedicated left-turn signal for motorists), at established school zone crossings, when an exclusive pedestrian interval is provided, and for wide streets where pedestrian clearance information is considered helpful.1


• Ensure that signals are visible to pedestrians.
• When possible, provide a walk interval for every cycle.
• Provide supplemental non-visual guidance for pedestrians with sensory restrictions.
• Pedestrian push buttons must be well positioned and within easy reach for all approaching pedestrians. Section 4E.09 within the MUTCD provides detailed guidance for the placement of push buttons to ensure accessibility.1
• Marked crosswalks should be installed in conjunction with pedestrian signals.
• Ideally, every signalized intersection should have a pedestrian signal head.

Estimated Cost

Min. Low
Max. High
Cost Unit
# of Sources (Observations)
Audible Pedestrian Signal
Countdown Timer Module
Pedestrian Signal
Signal Face
Signal Head
Signal Pedestal
Push Button

Many of the costs in the table above are representative of various components of a signal and are not representative of the complete cost of a signal.

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that have looked at the safety effects of pedestrian signals can be found here.

Case Studies

Las Vegas, Nevada
Phoenix, Arizona
Shoreline, Washington
Portland, OR
Brooklyn, New York
Tampa, Florida
Queens, New York
Washington, District of Columbia
Village of Great Neck Plaza, New York
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Reston, Virginia
San Francisco, California