We Need These in NOVA Now!


    For anyone who’s ever tried to walk around congested, car-friendly-but-pedestrian-unfriendly northern Virginia, you know that it can be a hair-raising, if not life-and-limb-threatening, experience. For instance, here in relatively progressive Arlington, walking to the Metro can be an adventure, given that Metro stops are often located in the middle of busy streets (e.g., Clarendon Metro is in between Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards) or across several busy streets (e.g., Courthouse Metro is across several lanes of traffic; a walk to Virginia Square often forces you to cross several major, east-west roads). Cross-walk signals, of course, are not particularly helpful. Press one, and you still have to wait a minute or however long for it to turn. What’s the point of having a crosswalk button if, after you press it, nothing happens for a long time?  The incentive is to jaywalk, especially if you’re in a rush to work or whatever, but that can be extremely dangerous, especially given all the lunatic drivers out there.

    All of which is why this should be a no-brainer for Northern Virginia jurisdictions to install ASAP!

    A new kind of traffic signal in Delaware, the High-intensity Activated Cross Walk, or HAWK, became active Friday and will make crossing Delaware 72 safer for students beginning this semester, state transportation officials say.


    Developed about a decade ago by city traffic engineers in Tucson, but in limited use until recently, the signal stays dark until a pedestrian or bicyclist wants to cross. They press a button, and the overhead signals flash yellow lights, followed by a solid yellow and a solid red, stopping traffic so the person can cross.

    “Drivers get that: Red means stop,” said Mark Luszcz, assistant chief traffic engineer with the Delaware Department of Transportation.

    The solid red light is followed by flashing red lights, allowing drivers to proceed if the crosswalk is clear. The signal then goes dark again and traffic flows freely. Researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University last year compared before-and-after accident data at 21 HAWK sites in Tucson and found a 13% to 29% reduction in all crashes and a 50% drop in pedestrian accidents.

    Did I say “no brainer?” Attention, elected officials of Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax: get it done!


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