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HAWK signals aim to make Salt Lake City streets safer


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says his city is leading the way in making pedestrians safer when crossing the street. He cites the city's new HAWK pedestrian signals as just one example.

The HAWK signal at 1300 East and Yale Ave. cost about $80,000 to install, but the mayor says it's worth it for safety.


I think it's fabulous. I think it's a great improvement on the safety of pedestrians.

–Dimity Lou, SLC resident


"It seems to be working well and seems to be a great improvement on what we have had in the past," Becker says.

Here's how it works: The signal remains dark until a pedestrian pushes the button, then it flashes yellow to let drivers know someone is getting ready to cross. After that, the light turns solid yellow, followed by red.

The count is on as the person crosses, and soon drivers can start moving again.

"When the light starts flashing, that means they can proceed with caution, and that means they can proceed if there's no longer a pedestrian in the crosswalk," explains Timothy Harpst, Salt Lake City's director of transportation.

City leaders say because the HAWK looks just like a traffic light, drivers stop for pedestrians 97 percent of them time.

In addition to keeping pedestrians safe, the signals increase convenience for drivers. By only stopping traffic when there's a pedestrian, they keep traffic moving -- and there's no beeping to disturb neighbors.

"I think it's fabulous. I think it's a great improvement on the safety of pedestrians," says Salt Lake City resident Dimity Lou.

The bumps on the curb cuts help the blind and visually impaired know they are entering a crosswalk
The bumps on the curb cuts help the blind and visually impaired know they are entering a crosswalk

Just south of the new HAWKs, on 2700 South, "bumps" are being placed where the sidewalk ends. They are for the blind and visually impaired.

If a pedestrian swipes a walking stick across one of the bumps, or if someone who can make out colors sees the color change, they know what's coming.

"It gives them a cue that they're going from a safe area of the sidewalk to where vehicles are traveling," said Lynn Jarman, representative for Salt Lake City Public Services.

The curb cuts have been required by the federal government for the last decade, but the city still isn't done getting them in.

"We've installed a total of about 12,000 curb cut assemblies," Jarman says. "We have about 3,100 still left to go."

As for the HAWK signals, you can expect to see two more installed within the next year -- one near Westminster College, and the other downtown, on South Temple by the City Creek Center.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com

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