Huron & Chapin

Stopped. Watched. icon

Just saw a pedestrian punch a car that drove through a red HAWK light on Huron. Strange lights come with problems.

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  1. By Chris
    January 21, 2011 at 7:44 pm | permalink

    More like “strange drivers” if you ask me. I have definitely been tempted to kick a car in similar situations.

  2. January 21, 2011 at 8:23 pm | permalink

    I can really identify with where you’re coming from Chris. The guy’s life would have been in danger if he hadn’t been more observant than the driver and we’re all thankful he was. The driver absolutely screwed up, he ran a red light. That’s super dangerous and there’s no getting around that.

    But the light is bizarre. I was driving alongside and slightly behind the truck that ran the light so I had the same perspective he did. The light is unnaturally tall and visually blends in with the lights far up the hill towards Main Street. Moreover, it’s an upside down triangle of lights that go from 1) off to 2) flashing yellow to 3) solid yellow to 4) double solid red and it goes through this process far faster than any traditional stoplight.

    This was actually only the second time I’ve interacted with the light going through its routine and I felt a pang of uncertainty about what to do. Flashing yellow to me normally means proceed with caution. Solid yellow says to me “stop if you can” (I could and did). And red, despite the aforementioned driver, is obvious. But in this case does flashing yellow really mean proceed with caution? It seems to more indicate a strange state of “prepare to prepare to stop.”

    Why could this light not have been a traditional light? I understand that it was desired to not disrupt the flow of traffic along Huron. So I say make the traditional stoplight that I propose stay green unless a pedestrian pushes the button to halt traffic. When that happens it would go through the traditional 1) yellow to 2) red process that 100% of drivers recognize. Is it to save the electricity that would power the green lights? If so does that really outweigh the danger of pedestrians watching cars drive through red lights close enough to their bodies that they can punch these cars?

    I’ve raised this point on the Chronicle before but I don’t see how this proposed redesign I mocked up (real light pattern on the left, my suggestion on the right) wouldn’t alleviate the problem.

  3. January 22, 2011 at 8:58 am | permalink

    well, that HAWK light really should be a traffic light….it’s lame, if you ask me.

  4. By David
    January 22, 2011 at 9:55 am | permalink

    I like the light on East Stadium near the church across from Tappan. The pedestrian/biker/runner pushes the walk button which, within a few minutes, changes the light to red in all directions allowing for safe passage across the street.

  5. By Linda Diane Feldt
    January 22, 2011 at 2:48 pm | permalink

    I love the HAWK signal, even though I’ve seen a number of cars run the red light, while I was crossing. It is better than nothing. It can’t be a normal traffic light, because it is a state trunk line. At least that is the explanation I’ve heard for a few decades. This is a great compromise of need vs. state requirements.

    We have a severe problem at ALL crosswalks, as people learn the new law, and begin to change their awareness of pedestrians. I believe pedestrians are in more danger right now than we were before the new crosswalk law, and the HAWK signal is also a place where pedestrians have to be more aware than normal.

    Once we have better signage, more enforcement, and drivers have gotten used to the greater awareness required, I think it will be a net gain. But in the meantime, it is scary out there. I walk a lot. Nearly every walk includes a car plowing into the crosswalk without looking, running stop signs, turning right on red when pedestrians are present in the crosswalk, and other violations. Add to that the unshoveled walks, icy paths, and places without sidewalks, and it is a challenging thing to simply go for a walk.

    Yesterday I was walking along a road without sidewalks, facing traffic, with my dog on the shoulder on a short leash well off the road. Apparently the driver coming towards me was distracted by the sight of my dog (he said), missed seeing the driver in front of him who had stopped to turn left. Slamming on his brakes caused him to spin out, miss hitting the car, but he ended up in the ditch. Where we had just been walking.

    Nothing less than a total change of consciousness and awareness is going to work to protect pedestrians and bicyclists. And we are getting there. I see more and more people obeying the new crosswalk law. More and more bicycles with lights, obeying traffic laws as least as often as cars.

    So I’m optimistic about changes in behavior, but also pretty scared and angry more often than I would prefer. Please slow down and watch out. This driving thing is a lot more complicated and dangerous than it might seem.

  6. January 24, 2011 at 3:03 pm | permalink

    Why couldn’t there be a traditional top light there? There are stoplights at First and Huron, as well as the much more challenging Seventh and Huron intersection where the streets don’t line up properly.

  7. January 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm | permalink

    Thanks for posting this observation regarding the new HAWK signal. My personal experience, while limited, has been quite positive at the new HAWK signal– I’ve been amazed to see cars quickly respond and stop as required. I have noticed a few pedestrians unsure about what to do– they seem not to realize they need to activate the light. I am alarmed to hear about the confusion and unresponsiveness of drivers. Clearly, observation is needed at this new signal to see how well it is really working and what efforts need to be taken (engineering, enforcement, or education) to make it work better. I can personally commit the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition (WBWC) to an observation of this crosswalk.

    WBWC has received funding to conduct an education campaign around our new pedestrian ordinance. Linda Diana Feldt is definitely correct that this is a topic that requires attention in our community if anything is going to change. For information about the WBWC pedestrian safety project, visit: [link]. Volunteers will be needed.

    Happy Walking,
    Erica Briggs
    WBWC Board Member

  8. By DrData
    January 24, 2011 at 3:59 pm | permalink

    Feldt’s comments about people needing to pay attention is appropriate. As a pedestrian, I would not assume that all cars will stop at the HAWK signals – other signals as well.

    I was walking on William and came to the stop sign at Ashley. A car had stopped at the stop sign, but he was engrossed in his messaging. Does he see me or not? Since, William is actually pretty busy at that time of day, I assumed that he would look for cars at least, before he continued motoring across the intersection. He did not appreciate me telling him to stop texting.

  9. By Kerrytown Taxpayer
    January 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm | permalink

    When conditions are right, and when approaching from the East to the West in my vehicle, that hawk light on Huron is pretty much invisible.

    As you come under the train trestle, you have to see it immediately, before it disappears above the roof line.

    I have missed it because I was paying attention traffic when I was coming under the trestle.

  10. By David
    January 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm | permalink

    While, as I stated in an earlier post, I really like the redlight on Stadium near Tappen. However, I really believe driver and pedestrian education to develop respectful habits.

    I now live and work in Cambridge, MA and walk everywhere except when I ride the T or a bus. When I first moved here I was amazed at the drivers. To each other, they are very agressive so I am very glad that I decided to not bring my car with me when I moved. In contrast, they are very curteous to pedestrians. For example: When a car is turning right or left from a traffic signal right of way, the pedestrian crossing the street in front of the turning car and with the light has the right of way. In 99.999% of my street crossing and those I have observed, the turning car automatically stops once the pedestrian enters the crosswalk even if it means blocking on-coming traffic. The drivers of the on-coming cars understand and patiently wait for the pedestrian to complete the walk and for the intersection to clear. I have never experience a nasty look, a bird flip, etc when I am the pedestrian. It took awhile to get used to it and to completely understand the cars were going to stop for me and my fellow walkers. The pedestrian/car dynamic is independent of a traffic signal and/or walk signal at a crosswalk. This behaviour is ingrained in the culture.

    On the other hand, the drivers in Michigan are pretty rude to walkers. They think they own the road and a walkers attempt to cross with the light is met with disdain to most drivers who want to make a right on red, etc.

  11. January 26, 2011 at 8:15 pm | permalink

    I am fascinated by this discussion since just yesterday I was 2/3 of the way across the road, in the pedestrian crosswalk near Kerrytown when a car zipped by right in front of me. If I hadn’t been paying attention, I would have had a problem and so would he! I grew up in Boston and as pushy as the drivers are, they screech to a halt when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk. In many areas there are cones in the crosswalks indicated the fine for drivers if they don’t yield to pedestrians. Why can’t we do that here. Like Diane, I love to be a walker but it is a scary enterprise.

  12. January 26, 2011 at 9:30 pm | permalink

    I think we need some more signage, as little as I care for it. Few people outside of very observant Ann Arbor residents know that the city has an ordinance requiring cars to stop for pedestrians in stopwalks. Michigan law does not require that, unlike laws in many more enlightened states.