A new species of HAWK is descending on KC, but they aren’t birds. They are a new type of traffic signal designed to improve both pedestrian safety and vehicular traffic flow. HAWK stands for High-intensity Activated crossWalK beacon. It allows pedestrians to stop car traffic to cross the street safely, and then lets cars get on their way quickly afterwards.
KCMO started adding HAWK signals within the last few years at spots like 38th and Main in Midtown and Independence Avenue at the KCUMB campus. Other cities in the region are currently considering locations where HAWK signals could be useful. The City didn’t provide any education or enforcement with the rollout of these new signals and isn’t using the most helpful signage available. There is still some confusion about how to get along with these new creatures.
Using HAWK signals
For pedestrians, it’s really easy. Just use the regular “beg button” to request a walk signal, and use it like any regular crosswalk.
For motorists, there are three simple phases to know about. The signal stays dark until activated by a pedestrian.
- Yellow – slow down and be prepared to stop
- Solid Red – stop and stay stopped
- Flashing Red – stop and then go if the crosswalk is clear
It’s the third phase that is confusing some motorists unaccustomed to HAWK signals. If the red lights are flashing back and forth but the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians, you come to a complete stop and then proceed forward. You don’t have to wait for the lights to turn off, and you won’t see a green light.
Benefits of HAWK signals
HAWK signals offer benefits for both pedestrians and motorists.
- Pedestrian/automobile crashes are reduced by up to 69%.
- Up to 97% of motorists comply with HAWK signals, better compliance that regular signalized intersections or crosswalks with flashing yellow lights.
- Motorists spend less time waiting and traffic gets flowing again sooner.
While the signals aren’t the perfect solution, they do add more elements of safety to pedestrian life here in KC.
Finally, check out this infographic from the City of Lansing, Michigan with more visuals on how to use our not-so-feathery friend.