Articles / Pedestrian safety

Traffic lights for pedestrians – on the ground?

By Aviva Canada on

We’ve all been there – walking alongside a busy road while staring down at our phones – perfecting the “text’n walk” for lack of a better word.

We’re either texting, scrolling through social media, changing a song on our playlist or chasing down our rideshare driver. If you look around, you’re not alone.  Whether we love it or hate it the majority of us are looking down at our phones. As a result, we’re distracted and may not be paying attention to our surroundings including traffic signals, or turning cars at the intersections.

Placing traffic lights on the ground.

In response to the large number of pedestrians looking down at their phones, a Dutch town decided to put traffic lights where they would be seen – on the ground. The new traffic light system, installed as a pilot project, includes LED light strips on the sidewalk that synchronize with traffic lights. HIG Traffic Systems, responsible for implementing this new traffic system, says it hopes more municipalities and cities will implement this type of crossing. 

Could these lights work in Canada?

According to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA), these type of pedestrian lights are considered in-roadway warning lights and studies show these types of treatments are effective in increasing driver compliance, reducing driver-pedestrian conflicts and reducing speed. However, they are most effective at night when they can best be seen.

One challenge with these in-roadway lights in Canada is their maintenance when exposed to winter conditions and snowplow damage. Another challenge is that these lights may perpetuate a culture of texting and walking. Ultimately, all pedestrians should not use their phones when walking and pay attention to all traffic signals – wherever they may be.

These pedestrian lights are an innovative way to adapt road design to our changing human behaviour. We’ll continue to be distracted by smartphones unless we consciously put them away. Therefore, we must consider adapting our road design to take into account these distractions and take back our roads.    

Do you think pedestrian lights on the ground are a good idea or will they perpetuate bad behaviour? Let us know on social @AvivaCanada using #TakeBackourRoads.