Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


A pedestrian push button provides allows pedestrians to activate a pedestrian signal and reassure pedestrians that they will receive a crossing indication. Source: - Dan Burden (2006)




Push Buttons & Signal Timing

The primary design and location attributes of pedestrian-friendly pushbuttons include the following:

• Pedestrian pushbuttons should be located at both ends of each crosswalk
• Pedestrian pushbuttons should be located within easy reach of pedestrians intending to cross, generally no more than 6 feet from the edge of the roadway
• The face of the pushbutton should be parallel to the crosswalk
• Supplemental signage should identify the crossing direction and signal indications associated with each pushbutton
• A visible indication that the push button has been activated may be provided and should remain illuminated until the WALK indication is activated.

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 In locations were pedestrian volumes are significant or compliance is poor, pushbuttons may be enabled to activate a “hot response” from the pedestrian signal, providing a pedestrian phase quickly after activation. Pushbuttons can also be enabled to allow pedestrians to request additional crossing time by depressing the button for at least two seconds. Signage indicating that extended time may be requested should be provided adjacent to the pushbutton.

Pedestrian signals may be equipped with passive detectors instead of pushbuttons. Passive detection devices register the presence of a pedestrian in a position indicative of a desire to cross, without requiring the pedestrian to push a button. 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.1

Pushbuttons are not required at locations where pedestrian signal intervals are automatically activated for every signal cycle. Automatic pedestrian signal intervals are preferred at locations with significant pedestrian activity. For instance, the City of Boston’s policy is for the pedestrian phase to be automatic during every cycle at locations where pedestrians are present more than 50 percent of the time during peak hours, or where studies indicate reasonable benefit.11

Pedestrian signal timings should be designed to provide at least the minimum required WALK and clearance intervals, based on MUTCD or State/Local timing guidelines, considering the length of the crossing and specified pedestrian walking speeds. At intersections on multi-lane highways, pedestrian signal intervals may exceed the necessary green time to serve vehicle volumes during concurrent signal phases. Pedestrian signal intervals can be reduced by shortening the crossing distance (i.e., construction curb extensions or road diets). Pedestrian signal intervals may also affect signal timing progression for coordinated traffic signal systems, particularly at closely-spaced urban intersections. Automatic pedestrian signal intervals may be used to provide a predictable pedestrian signal phase without affecting signal coordination.


Pedestrian pushbuttons are detectors intended to provide pedestrians with the ability to activate a pedestrian signal and reassure pedestrians that they will receive a crossing indication. However, only approximately 50 percent of pedestrians at intersections activate pushbuttons to cross at the intersection. To improve potential use of the pushbuttons and compliance with pedestrian signals, pushbuttons should be designed and installed to maximize convenience, conspicuity, and communication for pedestrians. Section 4E.08 of the MUTD provides specific guidance on the location of pushbuttons at traffic signals.1


• Pushbuttons should be conspicuous and conveniently located for pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk.
• Must comply with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) standards for accessibility.
• Pushbuttons are appropriate at intersections that operate with motor vehicle detection that is actuated.
• Pushbuttons are not necessary at intersections with automatic pedestrian signal intervals.
• Where pedestrians receive too little time to cross the street in one phase, pushbuttons must be provided in medians.
• Not necessary at small alleyways.

Estimated Cost

Installing a push button with sign and pedestal/post is approximately $800 to $1200. Adding audible tones or speech messages, and/or vibrating surfaces will raise the cost.

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that have looked at the safety effects of push buttons and signal timing can be found here.

Case Studies

Las Vegas, Nevada
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Portland, OR
Miami-Dade County, Florida
Reston, Virginia