‘HAWK’ pedestrian signal
A new type of traffic signal, called a HAWK pedestrian beacon, has been installed on Van Dorn Street at Maris Avenue. While slightly different in appearance, this signal functions very similarly to a conventional pedestrian signal in that it stops traffic to allow pedestrians to cross safely, in this case, to the DASH and Metrobus bus stop.
What is a HAWK signal?
‘HAWK’ is an acronym for High intensity Activated crossWalK. These signals have been used safely and successfully in Tucson, AZ. for more than five years. The signal is currently ‘experimental’ and required approval from the Federal Highway Administration but is expected to be adopted into standard traffic engineering manuals in the near future.
The HAWK is technically a “beacon” in that it remains dark for traffic unless a pedestrian activates the pushbutton. When the pedestrian presses the button, approaching drivers will see a FLASHING YELLOW for a few second, indicating that they should reduce speed and be prepared to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk.
The FLASHING YELLOW is followed by a SOLID YELLOW and then by a solid RED, requiring them to STOP at the stop line. At this time, the pedestrian receives a WALK indication on the associated countdown timer. Visually impaired pedestrians will hear the signal indicate that it is safe to cross. At the end of the WALK indication, the pedestrian is displayed a FLASHING DON’T WALK indication and motorist sees an ALTERNATING FLASHING RED. During this period, motorists are required to STOP or remain stopped until pedestrians have finished crossing the street, and then may proceed.
What are the advantages of a HAWK?
Studies have shown a better compliance rate by motorists with a HAWK beacon than other devices at pedestrian crossings. The signals are designed for use in locations that do not meet traffic engineering ‘warrants’ for a conventional signal.The new signal is intended to aid pedestrians who desire assistance crossing a street with heavy traffic and it also provides visually impaired pedestrians audible information as to when the WALK signal is on.
Use of HAWK beacons in Alexandria
The City of Alexandria received permission from the FHWA in June 2008 to experiment with HAWK beacons in more than a dozen locations identified by city traffic engineers. Data on the HAWK signal installed on Van Dorn Street – which is a pilot location for the citywide program – will be gathered by the City and provided to the FHWA in accordance with their requirements.
About Pedestrian Safety
The City of Alexandria places high priority on pedestrian safety and is concerned about unsignalized crosswalks on high traffic streets. Often these crossings do not meet engineering standards for installation of a conventional traffic signal so the City uses other treatments instead.
While various treatments exist for these unsignalized crossings, there is growing concern that they are not effective – especially on streets with heavy, high-speed traffic.
The new HAWK signal is important because it includes a RED signal and early studies have shown up to 97% motorist compliance.
Citizen Questions & Concerns
The City takes its role in pedestrian and traffic safety very seriously. As pedestrians and motorists, you play the most important role. If you have questions, suggestions or requests concerning traffic, please call the Transportation Division of the Department of Transportation & Environmental Services at the City of Alexandria at (703) 746-4411.