Denver hopes new ‘HAWK’ traffic signals will keep pedestrians safer

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DENVER — Near the University of Denver, trying to cross Evans Avenue can be described like a game of “Frogger” for many college students. But the city of Denver is trying to reduce risky jaywalking — and reduce traffic fatalities in the process.

Drivers now will see what looks like a railroad crossing between Evans Avenue and Gilpin Street. It’s called a HAWK signal, short for High intensity Activated crossWalK.

When drivers see the blinking yellow lights turn solid, they are supposed to slow down to a full stop. The double red lights indicate a full and complete stop at the line, and the blinking red lights mean drivers can proceed once the pedestrian has safely crossed the intersection.

There are now nine HAWK signals across Denver. The city started installing them in 2017. They cost between $200,000 and $400,000, which comes from the Denver Public Works general fund.

The city plans on installing more HAWK signals in 2020, but is still narrowing down specific locations. The department looks at factors including:

  • Width of the roadway – are there multiple lanes making it a long crossing for people on foot?
  • Proximity to existing traffic signals
  • Traffic and pedestrian volumes
  • Speed limits
  • Crash history (locations with a high number of crashes involving pedestrians or people on bikes will be prioritized)

A Federal Highway Safety study found that after a HAWK signal was installed along one road, vehicle vs. pedestrian crashes were reduced by 69%.

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