Improve Crosswalks with Automated Activation Systems

Installing an LED enhanced warning system can greatly improve pedestrian safety, but it’s important to ensure that the system is consistently activated. Automated systems take the effort out of activation, leading to fewer accidents and improved overall crosswalk safety.

LED enhanced warning systems are available in many forms and variations. When it comes to crosswalk warning systems, they often require activation from a pedestrian, especially in the case of mid-block crosswalks.

While LED enhanced systems have been proven to dramatically improve pedestrian safety, they are of course only of use when properly activated. This article highlights the need for improved activation compliance, the effect that automated systems have on compliance and general crosswalk safety, and an overview of the LaneLight automated activation product line.

How often do pedestrians activate crosswalk warning systems through manual activation?

One study showed that only half of pedestrians actually press crosswalk pushbuttons, especially on roadways where traffic is more spread out.

Another study, focused particularly on mid-block crosswalks, was more mixed. The study found variations in activation compliance based on which warning system device was used at the crossing. They found crosswalk activation compliance rates ranging from 28% to 66% activation, which is still well under the ideal numbers we are shooting for.

Taking these numbers into account, activation compliance should be a primary focus when installing an LED enhanced crosswalk warning system.

Illustration of a thermal sensor and set of photobollards for crosswalk warning systems activation

Rendering showing the coverage of both a FLIR infrared sensor (mounted on the top of the left side pole, pointing down) and two sets of photobollards on either side of the crossing.

What sort of effect do automated warning systems have on crosswalk safety?

Since compliance rates with manual activation systems can be disappointingly low, a solution is needed that doesn’t require any effort from the pedestrian. Automated systems come in various forms, such as infrared detection, photobollards or microwave motion sensors.

There have been a few studies undertaken in the past two decades to understand the effectiveness of these systems. In 2001, the US Federal Highway Administration released a study which found that automated pedestrian detectors can provide significant operational and safety benefits when installed in conjunction with conventional pedestrian pushbuttons at actuated traffic signals.

Another study in 2009 by the US FHWA found a significant decrease in the number of pedestrians that are still on the roadway when the walk signal has turned while using an automated system.

In a more recent 2020 study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, automated activation systems installed at the site of a rectangular rapid flashing beacon saw an increase in activation rates from 72% to 90%. By successfully activating crosswalk warning systems, automated warning systems ensure that pedestrians will see the full potential benefits of these devices. Different automation options allow for specific site situations to further increase activation accuracy.


LaneLight automated activation systems come in a number of configurations depending on your requirements. We recommend reaching out to our team so we can discuss your requirements and find the best fitting solution.

Our automated activation systems include:

  • Photobollards. Two sets of bollards on either side of the crosswalk which activate the warning systems when a thru-beam between the bollards is broken. Two beams are used, allowing the system to know which direction the pedestrian is travelling.
  • Sentinel sensors. A single sensor is used to detect the movement of pedestrians and cyclists. The sensor uses a single beam and detects movement within a programmable detection zone.
  • FLIR pedestrian sensors. Infrared scanner used to detect thermal signatures. Often mounted at the top of a pole, pointing downwards at the crosswalk.
  • Microwave pedestrian sensors: Sensors using microwave detection for either detection only or direction of travel.
Flir trafione thermal imaging sensor for warning system activation

FLIR TrafiOne Infrared Sensor

Improving activation rates is an important step when implementing a warning system or set of warning systems for your crosswalk. Automated activation systems have been proven to effectively activate these warning systems when pedestrians do not engage with traditional methods. With the COVID-19 pandemic, automated systems can help improve activation rates for users who are reluctant to use traditional methods.

Hit the button below to contact us about your exact crosswalk requirements and we will be happy to give you more information about our automated systems!