Safe crossing

2018 - 2019

Whenever you are moving around the city on the roads, you will come across traffic lights. They work day and night, during rain and sunshine, regardless of how busy it is. Luke is jogging, teacher Elsie is with her class of toddlers, Ahmed needs to catch his train, Elizabeth is braving the city in her wheelchair, nobody escapes. When you're waiting for a red light, it often feels like time is being wasted. Or it can feel like the other lights have been green for too long, even when nobody is there. Do you recognise this feeling? Do you lose your patience occasionally? Do you sometimes also feel that you could manage to get to the other side safely, even if the light is red?
The “Safe crossing” project charts how often pedestrians ignore the red light. The Antwerp Smart Zone wants to understand why and when it happens. In order to be able to reduce these numbers over time, a study will be carried out at the intersection of the Kronenburgstraat, Nationalestraat, Volksstraat and Geuzestraat. At this point, five streets cross each other, and two trams pass through the middle. The aim of the project is to achieve behavioural change so the number of pedestrians crossing the street on a red light can be reduced.

How does it work technically?

  • A camera registers all pedestrians at the Nationalestraat crossover. These images go to servers at Digipolis, the digital servicer of the city, via a secure channel. Computers count how many people cross in which direction. 
  • The traffic lights send a signal when they are red or green.
  • The computer combines this data and calculates how many people respect the red light and whether or not they cross at the right time. 
  • These counts are shown on two digital screens at the crossing in the Nationalestraat. The screens show how many people have crossed on a red or green during the last seven days.
  • To make waiting more pleasant, the digital screens also display quiz questions about Antwerp. The same computers manage these quiz questions.
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User research

The first phase was to carry out a neighbourhood study asking the question, “How can technology support the neighbourhood?” This resulted in a number of themes emerging in Sint-Andries, such as safety, retail, materials and waste management, as well as mobility (traffic lights, parking, loading and unloading). 

The “Safe crossing” project aims to make crossings safer for pedestrians with the help of technological solutions.

The behaviour, needs and frustrations of pedestrians are very dependent on the actual location they want to cross. As a first step, the behaviour of pedestrians at the intersection between Kronenburgstraat, Nationalestraat, Volksstraat and Geuzestraat was investigated. On the basis of interviews with experts, supplemented with desk research, the first parameters were identified to determine the crossing behaviour. To get an idea of how often pedestrians run a red light and why they do this, observations were also made and interviews conducted on the spot. The goal was to get an answer to the following questions. 

  • How do pedestrians cross the road? 
  • Where do they cross the road? 
  • What problems or frustrations do they experience when crossing? 
  • Is there variation between different target groups, such as the elderly, a group of schoolchildren, teens, and so on? 
  • What (un)safe behaviour do pedestrians practise at the intersection? 

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Looking for solutions

The user survey showed that many people crossed on red lights. They do so for all sorts of reasons: they are in a hurry, they do not want to wait for the green light and believe the traffic situation to be safe, they want to get their bus or tram, etc.

The “Safe crossing” project wants to

  • make waiting for a red light more pleasant for pedestrians; 
  • encourage pedestrians to cross on a green light;
  • ensure fewer pedestrians cross on a red light.

The intention is to give pedestrians a subtle “nudge” in the right direction. 

  • More safe crossing starts with raising awareness. The traffic light has a digital screen that shows how many people are crossing on a red or green light. Cameras register this. 
  • To make the wait more pleasant, the screens also display quiz questions about Antwerp.

Cameras and digital screens

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.


To be able to carry out the “Safe crossing” project

  • cameras were installed at the crossroads,
  • data was used from traffic lights for pedestrians
  • two digital screens were installed at the lights on the Nationalestraat.

Camera and digital screens

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Test phase

During this phase, everything is technically tested: the setting of the cameras, the signals from the camera and the traffic lights, and the Wi-Fi range.

Camera and Wi-Fi

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Citizen survey

Pedestrians are regularly questioned during the test phase.

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Measurement, before and after

To examine the impact of the chosen solution, the number of people who cross on a red light was counted. The first counts were carried out while the digital screens were not yet available. These results will be compared with new counts carried out after the screens have been installed.

What will be measured?

  • the time 
  • the crossover
  • whether the light is red or green 
  • in which direction the pedestrian is crossing

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Evaluation and reporting

The objective is to determine whether pedestrians change their behaviour, and whether they cross the street less on a red light after the installation of the screens.

Nationalestraat, near the Institute of Tropical Medicine.

Privacy within this project

The “Safe crossing” project uses camera images to count pedestrians. A computer program examines how many people the camera notices and in which direction they are moving. 

The Antwerp Smart Zone is only interested in numbers, not in the identity of the people on the street. Anybody detected several times in the same frame is counted as a new individual each time. The system does not recognise people. When an employee checks the system, he/she only sees blurred faces.

Would you like to build it with us? Sure!

To build our smart city, the Antwerp Smart Zone prefers to work with entrepreneurs and scientists. Do you recognise these qualities in yourself? Then make sure to get in touch to experiment with us.

Build it with us

Would you like to take part? Gladly!

Nobody knows our city better than those who live or work there. This is why the Antwerp Smart Zone wants to get ideas and insights from as many residents as possible, to work together to help make Antwerp even smarter.

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