Huron & Chapin

Stopped. Watched. icon

8:10 p.m. I press the button for the HAWK signal and when the Voice tells me to walk, I do. As I finish crossing the street (with 10 seconds or so to spare) I hear the cars behind me start moving. Not for the first time. And I wonder: Is the HAWK sign like a stop SIGN, where a car waiting for the person to cross and then going is the right thing to do? Or is it like a stop LIGHT, where it’s not?

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  1. By TJ
    July 1, 2014 at 10:43 pm | permalink

    I was told by someone with a chauffeur’s license that when it is solid red drivers must stop; when it switches to flashing you can proceed if safe. I have not done further research to confirm or disprove this. It’s certainly confusing, though! I wish it wouldn’t switch to flashing red.

  2. By Voxphoto
    July 1, 2014 at 10:50 pm | permalink

    Motorists approaching that intersection via 3rd or Chapin also don’t know the answer… and once the Huron traffic stops, many interpret it as a green light for them.

    A pedestrian crosswalk is a nice idea, but locating it somewhere mid-block would have been much less ambiguous and confusing.

  3. By Eric Boyd
    July 1, 2014 at 11:24 pm | permalink

    Motorists can proceed with caution (after stopping) once the red lights start flashing red, if the crosswalk is clear: [link]

  4. By anna ercoli schnitzer
    July 2, 2014 at 4:56 am | permalink

    Another question I have that is unrelated to the HAWK signal but still in the general neighborhood (corner of W. Liberty and 1st St): Is it legal for a car heading toward downtown to go right through the first red light, just before the RR track, in order to get to the second red light and then make a “right turn on red” onto 1st St.?

  5. By Bear
    July 2, 2014 at 11:55 am | permalink

    There is no reason for that first red light except to keep people off of the railroad tracks in order to avoid a train collision. If there is no one ahead of you, come to a full stop, look both ways and then proceed to the next light in order to make a right turn.

    Just seems common sense to me. Like I said, the first red light is to keep people at bay, who otherwise might stop on the tracks with nowhere to go.

  6. By Donna Estabrook
    July 2, 2014 at 5:26 pm | permalink

    There is a good graphic representation of how the HAWK signals work on the AAATA buses – at least on route 12. I think there are also instructions on the pole where you activate the light on Chapin St.

  7. By Rod Johnson
    July 2, 2014 at 6:19 pm | permalink

    I’m going from memory, but I thought the reason for the first red light was to keep the driveway into the garage at what is now the Taubman Annex. I’m not sure what, if any, use it gets now. If I’m right, maybe it’s time to reconsider that light?

  8. July 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm | permalink

    If there is this much confusion, among well educated, civic-minded people — ditch the Hawk signal, and put in a standard stop light that folks understand.

    That also applies to that crossing on Plymouth Road by the Islamic Center where people keep getting run down, this may not be a cross street, but there is a cross walk that needs protection. Put in a stop light.

  9. July 3, 2014 at 5:29 am | permalink

    With regard to the HAWK signal: there are many legal and regulatory complications to putting in a stop light, aside from cost. We can’t put in stop lights in certain cases without MDOT’s approval. We have many places where pedestrian crossings are needed but stop lights are not possible.

    Some of the confusion in this thread is because a different red signal got introduced into the discussion.

    I’m hoping that there will be some clarification on our policy regarding pedestrian signals and signage (which vary a great deal across the city) with our Pedestrian Safety and Access Task Force. The City Council approved the contract for our facilitator (Greenway Collaborative) and our Chair, Linda Diane Feldt, is working with him (Norman Cox) to set up a work plan. We next meet on July 17 at Traverwood Library (usually it is downtown but this is during Art Fair). Official announcement is not out yet.

  10. By Steve Bean
    July 3, 2014 at 9:00 am | permalink

    @8: I don’t see any confusion about the HAWK signal here, only a difference in perspective between Ruth’s view as a pedestrian who doesn’t notice that the light above changes from red to flashing red and the accurate motorist perspective that Eric shared.

  11. By Donna Estabrook
    July 3, 2014 at 9:52 am | permalink

    As I understand it, Huron where it intersects with Chapin/3rd St is part of the state road system (94 business?). State law allows only a specified number of standard (i.e non-HAWK) traffic lights, or perhaps it is a certain distance between standard traffic lights, on that stretch. I don’t know if that is the case on Plymouth Road.

  12. By Donna Estabrook
    July 3, 2014 at 10:09 am | permalink

    Although the flashing/solid yellow and red lights indicate standard traffic instructions to the driver, the sequence is unusual and so can be confusing. Since I rarely drive I don’t know what it is like to approach an activated HAWK signal in a car. It is unlikely for someone who usually drives – as opposed to walking, biking or taking the bus – to see the graphic instructions for HAWK use. You would have to look it up. Thank you, Eric, for the link.
    This is a good example of the isolating nature of private car use.

  13. By Rod Johnson
    July 3, 2014 at 10:53 am | permalink

    If Ruth feels confusion, there is confusion.

  14. July 3, 2014 at 5:51 pm | permalink

    The sequence is unusual. Motorists are not used to seeing a signal change from flashing yellow to solid yellow, and they are not used to seeing a double flashing red except maybe at a railroad crossing, where it means “stop.” I don’t know whether the double flashing red HAWK signal means “stop” like at a RR crossing, or means “stop then go” like a single flashing red at an ordinary signal.

  15. By Chris
    July 3, 2014 at 8:56 pm | permalink

    My feeling is, if you are confused, it’s best to stop.

  16. By Lyn Davidge
    July 3, 2014 at 9:06 pm | permalink

    Another twist on the meaning of HAWK signals…. A resident of nearby Lurie Terrace told me that she regularly sees people hop out of cars stopped on Chapin, run over and push the HAWK button, and get back in the car in time to cross or turn onto Huron when cars are stopped. And not a pedestrian in sight.

  17. By Glacial Erratic
    July 4, 2014 at 4:33 pm | permalink

    #16: that’s fascinating! Definitely from the viewpoint of a cyclist using the road, hopping up to the button and pushing it makes sense, even if one then continues across on the street, and I have seen that cars take advantage when I do that (while still yielding to the bike if turning, which I appreciate), but I’ve never seen someone in a car initiate it. I’ve figured that cars could take advantage of gaps, because of speed, that bikes and pedestrians can’t, but now I’ll watch as maybe it suggests that a pressure-plate for cars to activate the signal would be useful, even if unlikely to happen for all the reasons noted involving the hassle of even getting the HAWK.

  18. By Donna Estabrook
    July 5, 2014 at 7:57 pm | permalink

    I walk cross Huron at Chapin often. It has occurred to me that it would not be too difficult for someone in a car to jump out and activate the HAWK, especially if there was a passenger who could do the jumping out. I have never seen it happen, but I guess it does.

  19. By Lyn Davidge
    July 5, 2014 at 9:26 pm | permalink

    Yes, it’s the passenger doing the running in my friend’s observations.