Crosswalk Lessons For Cole Near Ustick

Our friends at the Ada County Highway District are getting HAWKish on crosswalks.

HAWK stands for High-intensity Activated crossWalK signal. ACHD is testing the new type of signal near Cole Road and Ustick in an effort to increase pedestrian safety, and to determine if more HAWK signals should be installed. Tuesday is the start up day.

The new HAWK signal uses traditional traffic and pedestrian signal heads but in a different configuration, with features that have not been used on any other ACHD signal.

How it works: When not activated, the signal is dark, allowing drivers to freely pass through. It is activated when a pedestrian pushes the walk button. The HAWK signal begins flashing yellow to indicate to drivers someone will be using the crosswalk. It then goes to solid yellow like a typical traffic signal, advising drivers to prepare to stop. The signal then turns solid red, requiring drivers to stop at the crosswalk. Finally, the signal goes to flashing red, letting drivers know that after coming to a complete stop, they can proceed once the pedestrian has crossed safely. The signal then returns to the dark condition. Let’s hope it is more intuitive than the description.

The HAWK pedestrian crossing signals have greatly enhanced pedestrian safety in Tucson where it was found that the device substantially improves motorist stopping behavior, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). ACHD is one of the latest agencies to get permission to try the signal.

A pedestrian crossing was needed near Ustick and Cole because a new Boise library is being built nearby. The location was a good site for the HAWK signal because the pedestrian crossing is close to an existing traffic signal. The unique HAWK design will prevent the pedestrian signal from being confused with the traffic signal at Ustick and Cole.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. If it works, I nominate Front and Broadway as the next location. The one thats there gives a short walk signal before the light turns green and then goes to a countdown. Right-turning drivers pay little attention (including police cars).

  2. Tom Anderson
    Aug 5, 2008, 8:27 am

    I read a study a while back that basically said…

    When a pedestrian uses a dedicated cross walk, they assume they have the right of way and don’t pay close attention to the cross traffic, resulting in more pedestrian deaths than in places where there are no crosswalks.

  3. I noticed that drivers always assume they have the right-of-way, injuring pedestrians that really did… especially when said drivers are on their cell phones. ;P

  4. Given that I’m still confused when I see a right turn arrow that is displaying red – Can I turn right after stopping or do I have to wait until the arrow turns green if there is no sign restricting me otherwise? I’m sure the crosswalk lights will only confuse me further. I much prefer the system they have near the HS on Cloverdale where the sidewalk lines flash with little embedded lights.

  5. Boise Whiskey Tango
    Aug 5, 2008, 4:20 pm

    The crosswalk problem has been tacitly acknowledged as severe by the City, County and State Governments. Witness the “Candlesticks” at the Crosswalk in front of Boise’s Public Works Department on State St., the Candlesticks and Orange Flags that where on the State St. Side of the Capitol (before construction), etc…

    Wanna know what REALLY works and doesn’t cost otherwise Law Abiding Taxpayers a Dime?

    Brutal, Draconian Fines and prompt / immediate reporting to the Offender’s Insurance Carrier.

    I personally like how some European nations calculate Traffic fines according to a percentage of a person’s annual income.

    “Equal Justice Under The Law” becomes much more of a reality and less of a quaint notion then.


    Red Arrow = No Turn until Green Arrow.

    Red Light = Right on Red, after coming to a complete, full stop. And even then, only into the Right-Most (closest) Lane, yielding to traffic with the Green.

    Left on Red? From a One-Way onto a One-Way, or From a Two-Way onto a One-Way after a complete, full stop. And then only into the the Left-Most (closest) Lane, yielding to traffic with the Green.

  6. Well let’s hope this works. However, since in the quarter mile between Cole and Milwaukee, there are now (or will be) 6 (3 going each way) crosswalk/standards/flashing lights, who knows what will really happen. Note, this doesn’t count the traffic lights at Cole and at Milwaukee.

    Will pedestrians be safe? Will drivers get confused? Who knows?

  7. I’ve got a great view of this particular light from my office. It seems like it would work great if people understood it. The biggest problem I noticed when road workers were testing it today is that long after the pedestrian has crossed and the red lights are flashing people don’t realize they are allowed to drive through the light. People also stop when it starts flashing orange which is long before it actually switches to red.

    I like the idea but it’s just too different from anything else on the road.

    The new stretch of Ustick actually has THREE different types of pedestrian crosswalk lights

    1. The orange lights on the ground (which I see people drive through everyday as they are hard to see in the evening sun)

    2. The normal traffic light with the green light, orange light, and red light. (Most effective at getting cars to stop but leaves cars idling long after the pedestrian has left the street)

    3. And this new system…

  8. Sounds great.
    But I doubt drivers will understand the alternating lights, like a RR crossing. (I didn’t know one could drive past the alternating lights at a RR crossing, so I wouldn’t have guessed it would be OK at a crosswalk.

    Still, what’s wrong with the plain old three-level stop/go lights that every driver has seen millions of at cross streets all over the nation?

  9. Sam the sham
    Aug 7, 2008, 12:51 am

    In Boise any kind of yellow light means “speed up before it turns red” not slow down or caution. It’s a Boise tradition. I think they used to teach it that way in Driver’s Ed when they also taught us how to use a stick shift. Memory is a little fuzzy…

  10. In the movie “Starman” (1984 – Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen), an extraterrestrial learning to drive from observation said after speeding thru an intersection to beat the red light:

    “Yes I’ve been watching… Red means stop, green means go, yellow means go faster”

    Wow. Was that REALLY 24 Years ago?!?!

  11. I try to be “green” and walk as much as possible. But crossing a street in Boise is a nighmare. Even the police won’t stop for you when you are in a crosswalk with a sign that says, “Stop When Occupied” and you are pointing to it. We need pedestrian laws enforced. We in Boise should be able to walk across the street.

  12. I am fairly certain that I won’t know what to do if I confront one of these lights.

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