The city of Antwerp today started installing new buttons at pedestrian crossings which can be operated with the elbow, for anyone who is wary of touching a surface that is probably touched by thousands of strangers every day.
The new button will be attached on top of the existing button, meaning it projects out further, making it easier to press with the elbow by pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross.
It will be installed at the 73 pedestrian light-controlled crossings, where the lights change on request. Most other pedestrian crossings operate either on a fixed cycle or by using detectors in the road surface for cars or camera images to measure the density of traffic in the various directions.
The change comes at the request of pedestrians and cyclists, the city said, to make the city more corona-proof.
“In total, the city is installing 508 push buttons,” said Koen Kennis (N-VA), city councillor for mobility.
“Especially with winter approaching, it is worthwhile to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians, if they are wearing gloves or mittens, to operate those buttons. And safer of course.”
At present the change only affects those roads that fall under the city’s authority, but Antwerp intends to suggest an extension of the measure to regional roads.
“We will be asking the Agency for Roads and Traffic to also provide adapted push buttons on regional roads, so that all push buttons can be made corona-proof.”
In Antwerp, 50 intersections are equipped with smart lights, which use cameras to vary the length of time traffic from a particular direction should have a green light, based on the density of traffic in all directions.
However it is difficult for smart lights to deal with cyclists, who are able to approach from different directions or turn immediately to cross without riding over the intersection. Push buttons are therefore the best solution.
Pedestrians’ movements and intentions are even more difficult to predict, which is why push buttons have been in place for much longer.