Remember red and yellow pedestrian signals? Nationwide standards eliminated these decades ago, with no distinctive replacement to alert drivers to a pedestrian crossing… until now. Recently, a new signal called a Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon was approved for use where there would not otherwise be signal-controlled traffic, such as mid-block crossings. Newton leads the way with what may be the first installations in the state, going live in the coming days. There will eventually be two on Parker Street, one on Beacon Street near Boston College, and one at Crafts and Linwood Streets, serving busy routes for students and bus commuters. They claim much higher compliance (well over 90%) than flashing yellow lights and rectangular rapid flashing beacons (RRFB) in use elsewhere in the city. The Crafts and Linwood installation replaces one of those flashing signals at a crossing which has been especially dangerous.

The signal is push-button operated and has walk and don’t walk symbols for pedestrians, the same controls in use at intersections.  For drivers, the phase sequence might take some getting used to, but it’s really just a combination of signals everyone knows. Flashing to steady yellow: prepare to stop.  Steady red: must stop.  Flashing red: full stop before proceeding.  One thing that’s a little different is that when the signal is not active, it goes dark.

This Fort Collins, Colorado PSA shows how the signal works:

Like other new traffic equipment, the signals are ADA-compliant, include controls for emergency vehicles, and are designed to control intervals and limit unnecessary delays.  They are less expensive and more specialized than “full” red-yellow-green traffic signals, which are generally permitted only at high volume intersections and not at pedestrian-only crossings, but they carry the same weight in terms of regulations and enforcement.

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