Montgomery Council Member Seeks Legislation Overturning Pedestrian Traffic Signal Ban

Montgomery County Council Member and Transportation Committee Chair Roger Berliner sent a request yesterday to the Montgomery County State Delegation for legislation to permit installation of High-Intensity Activated crossWalk (HAWK) signals on state roads – a type of traffic signal used to stop vehicles at crosswalks which, according to Maryland’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, “shall not be used in Maryland.”

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HAWK pedestrian crossing signal

Bethesda Magazine describes the HAWK signals:

Most of the time HAWK signals remain dark to allow traffic to pass through them, but when a pedestrian hits a button to cross a road, the signals flash yellow for a few seconds, then turn solid yellow to indicate drivers should prepare to stop and finally turn a solid double red requiring drivers to stop so the pedestrian can cross. The signals hang above roadways so cars can clearly see them.

Berliner makes the case in his letter that HAWK signals can reduce vehicle and pedestrian collisions by 69 percent, according to the Federal Highway Administration, which recommends the signals at high-speed or wide-crossing conditions. Montgomery County roads have experienced a number of pedestrian and cyclist collisions recently, with three deaths last month.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, or MUTCD, defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel. The MUTCD is published by the Federal Highway Administration  under 23 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 655, Subpart F. It turns 81 in a few days. Maryland’s version of the MUTCD includes language from the federal MUTCD, with some Maryland-specific modifications, including the pedestrian hybrid beacon prohibition.

Berliner’s letter is available here.