Visalia lands its first HAWK crosswalk

Recent installation of High-intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) traffic light makes it easier for pedestrians to cross busy Lovers Lane along Packwood Creek Trail

VISALIA – Almost three months ago, a HAWK touched down in Visalia, taking pedestrians under its protective wing as they cross Lovers Lane along the Packwood Creek Trail.

On May 18, the first-ever High-intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK) in Visalia was unveiled on Lovers Lane (Highway 216) at the Packwood Creek Trail Crossing, located between Tulare and Walnut Ave. According to the City of Visalia website, HAWK appears more like a beacon and functions like any other crosswalk traffic light, with either a button or sensor available for pedestrians to use when they need to cross. 

HAWK was installed as a way to get pedestrians and bicyclists across the Packwood Creek Trail from west of Lovers Lane to the east, according to Diego Corvera, civil engineer with the City of Visalia. The trail extends from the county center, 1,100 feet east of Mooney Blvd. and goes for a total of 3,600 feet, according to the City of Visalia website. When it comes to a busy road, Corvera said HAWK is a better and more efficient system for getting pedestrians across traffic.

“When we’re dealing with crossings of high speed, high volume roadways, you really need a robust, pedestrian beacon, like what HAWK functions as,” Corvera said. “[Otherwise] you would have a great separation, like a bridge or a tunnel.”

There haven’t been any accidents and the city has not heard any negative components about the traffic light crossing, according to Corvera. The city will study the effectiveness of the crossing over the next year to track if more people use the crossing on Lovers Lane and if that leads to more people using the trail. 

The city doesn’t currently have plans to install more HAWK systems but if it proves effective, the city may consider placing more of the crossing signals at intersections with high volumes of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

The HAWK signal looks and operates differently than a traditional crosswalk. While the usual traffic light signals pedestrians when they should cross in accordance with ongoing traffic, HAWK also uses multiple red lights to signal drivers someone is using the crosswalk. The light is dark when it is not in use but once triggered, the light will flash yellow and then turn red, which is when vehicles slow down and come to a stop. Once the pedestrian has crossed, either on foot or on a bike, the HAWK darkens once more and allows traffic to continue as needed. 

The development of HAWK started in the late 1990s in the city of Tucson, Ariz., according to the U.S Department of Transportation website. The beacon was made to help with pedestrian crossing, especially at locations with major roads and minor street intersections. The website states that previous research found that the percent of drivers yielding with the traffic light is above 95% with HAWK, even on major streets with multiple lanes and higher speeds.

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