Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


PUFFIN crossings with the pedestrian sensor circled in red.




Puffin Crossing

Pedestrians crossing multilane roadways face a number of serious challenges to their safety, especially those pedestrians who have difficulty walking. Even at locations where a crosswalk signaling device is available, the crossing time might not last long enough to allow the pedestrian to complete the crossing during the standard allotted time. The purpose of a Puffin crossing is to provide the opportunity for pedestrians to “call” a Walk phase and also to have a signal enhancement that can provide extra time for crossing the street when needed.


Transportation engineers in Great Britain were the first to address this problem and created the PUFFIN signal as a way to accommodate slower pedestrians at crosswalks. PUFFIN stands for Pedestrian User Friendly Intelligent Intersection, and it uses active detection and passive presence of pedestrians in crosswalks to determine whether the pedestrian phase of a traffic signal or beacon should be extended or canceled. PUFFIN signals in Great Britain reduce waiting times for both pedestrians and motorists while making sure that slower pedestrians can safely cross the street. PUFFIN signal indications are often placed on the near side of an intersection so that pedestrians can view oncoming traffic and look at the signal simultaneously. This positioning of the signals so crossing pedestrians can no longer see their signal has caused some concern in Great Britain and is currently under study. Tucson has attempted to take the best from the British design and overcome the position of the pedestrian signal indication issues with the Tucson PUFFIN. The pedestrian indications are placed so they are visible throughout the crossing maneuver in Tucson.


Puffin crossings are not needed at all signalized locations, but may be appropriate for signalized crossings where a relatively high frequency of pedestrians aged 65 and above and/or pedestrians with disabilities which result in slower walking speeds. While pedestrian detectors used for the Puffin crossing have been used fairly frequently in some European countries, there may still be a need to conduct some evaluation of their accuracy of various detector types at crossings in U.S. cities. Puffin technology is intended for use where there are traditional traffic signals with pedestrian signals and may be used with the Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons.

The Puffin Crossing is used in Tucson, AZ and Portland, OR. Detection devices are used (from the Department of Defense), which detects people in the crosswalk and keeps red lights flashing until the person is clear. HAWK beacons are used with this crossing.

One consideration is to use these at locations with wide variability in pedestrian crossing times, such as near senior centers.

Estimated Cost

While not used often in the U.S. to date, the cost of one Puffin installation in Tucson, Arizona, in conjunction with a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon (HAWK) signal was estimated to cost $80,000 to $150,000.

Safety Effects

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

Case Studies