HAWK lights may confuse drivers, but improve pedestrian safety: Roadshow

Q: I’ve seen quite a few new crosswalks on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, in particular. They are not particularly intuitive. Can you help ?

The lights turn red when pedestrians cross, as expected. When clearing the road, the lights flash red for several seconds. The drivers look at each other as if to ask themselves: “What do we do now?” Are we okay to go, or do we have to wait for the lights to stop blinking? Your expert input would be appreciated.

Gary Brauch, Hills of Los Altos

A: These are HAWK pedestrian signals, high intensity activated crosswalks. Flashing red lights should be treated like any flashing red light you might see with signal blackouts or flashing red four-way stops.

When the flashing red cycle begins, the pedestrian countdown begins. When pedestrians are clear of the crosswalk and there are no cyclists or other wheeled users trying to cross, drivers can pass, even if the lights are still flashing.

Q: I remember in 1964 I drove my 1957 Ford Skyliner hardtop convertible down El Camino Real from Sunnyvale to Santa Clara, listening to the radio, cruising, so to speak. If you weren’t stopping at a burger joint, you could drive right in the middle of Santa Clara University.

Talk about jaywalking. At the time of the class change, you would be stopped short for 5 minutes.

Now there is this sharp curve around the university. Students seem to use crosswalks and pedestrian lights at intersections.

On party nights, however, Lafayette Street is a prime jaywalking area, with students distracted by cellphones everywhere.

Tom D

A: This area used to be a real headache for drivers and pedestrians. It’s good to hear it’s better most of the time.

Q: I hope you can fix this, or tell me who has jurisdiction, so I can start agitating someone. This is the bike/pedestrian path along Moffett Park Drive, just north of Hwy 237 and south of Lockheed.

From one angle, it is obvious that the chain link fence is dangerously twisted. But coming from the direction and time I was doing, with the curve of the fencing, I didn’t see the danger in time. My handlebars clipped the fence as I rode at a pretty good speed. I was wiped out, sustaining major injuries and destroyed my laptop in the accident. Can you please help resolve this issue?

Cynthia Freeman

A: I’m on it. Sorry to hear about your injuries and your ruined laptop.

Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at [email protected]

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