New D.C. traffic signals give pedestrians control

A pedestrian signal at 16th and Jonquil streets came online last week. This one includes a sensor to detect people trying to cross. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck)

Andrew Mollenbeck,

WASHINGTON – You don’t have to be good-looking to stop traffic.

New pedestrian signals are going up at some busy crossings in the District. With the push of a button, people trying to cross can bring traffic to a stop.

“It allows pedestrians to cross the street safely, and actually it is to the advantage of drivers,” says George Branyan, pedestrian program coordinator with the D.C. Department of Transportation.

“The [signals are] actually designed to let vehicles move again if it’s safe to move on that flashing red, so the delay imposed on drivers is a lot less than a standard signal,” he says.

Along with the prototype, another of these signals — known as a “HAWK” — came online last week at 16th and Jonquil streets in Northwest. That crossing features a sensor that automatically figures out when a person wants to cross the road.

In all, five such signals will be operational soon.

Read more about the HAWK signal here

NBC Washington first reported that work is now beginning on a signal for Connecticut Avenue in Cleveland Park. That crossing will be near the Uptown Theater.

Drivers are still trying to figure out the Mickey Mouse-shaped lights.

First, a flashing yellow light alerts drivers for about eight seconds. Then, that turns to a solid yellow light for four seconds. Finally, drivers see double red signals, at which time people waiting on the curb can walk across the road.

After about seven or eight seconds, the two red lights flash alternately, and drivers can use discretion to pass through the crossing.

“When it’s not in use, you just drive under it,” Branyan says. “You should not come to a stop at this particular dark signal.”

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