2009 MUTCD - Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons

December 22, 2009

In reference to the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the following piece of guidance regarding the installation of pedestrian hybrid beacons (the device formerly know as the HAWK) might be helpful. As shown below, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) included guidance in Section 4F.02 that pedestrian hybrid beacons should not be used at or within 100 feet of stop or yield-controlled side streets. This guidance is contrary to many of the existing applications, including some of those in Tucson and Portland.

Guidance (Section 4F.02):

04 When an engineering study finds that installation of a pedestrian hybrid beacon is justified, then:

A) The pedestrian hybrid beacon should be installed at least 100 feet from side streets or driveways that are controlled by STOP or YIELD signs.

FHWA's reason for including this guidance is copied below. Their primary concern appears to be the same as with "half signals," that the side-street driver will be confused when facing a stop sign while the major-street driver is controlled by a red-yellow-green traffic signal. There is still some debate with regard to applying this concern to the pedestrian hybrid signal. The major-street is treated as a stop-controlled movement when the beacon is active rather than as a stop-and-go movement as with a half signal. However, the FHWA's concern with having essentially a variable control condition on the major street is understandable.

FHWA Reason for Including this Guidance:

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons and Emergency-Vehicle Hybrid Beacons Should Not Be Installed at Intersections – NCUTCD’s recommendations did not include provisions that recommend against installing these devices at or within 100 ft of an intersection.

  • FHWA adopted language for these devices similar to that adopted in 4C regarding signals warranted by Ped Volume or School Crossing warrants, recommending they not be installed at or within 100 feet of an intersection.

  • Reason: Same issues of “half signal” with Stop sign-controlled side streets occur with these hybrid beacons if they were installed at intersection. FHWA determined that comparable Guidance against installation at or within 100 ft of intersection needed to be included for hybrid beacons.

It will be interesting to see how this is applied to roundabouts where the pedestrian hybrid beacon is envisioned as one potential device for signalization of pedestrian crossings at multi-lane approaches. It seems, given the one-way direction of downstream traffic and the likely distance between the pedestrian crossing and the downstream entry, that one could reasonably apply engineering judgment to justify a pedestrian hybrid signal at a crossing 20-25' back rather than 100'.

One other interesting side note, FHWA is requiring that the flashing red displays in the pedestrian hybrid beacon be flashed alternately rather than simultaneously. The railroad had concern that if the displays were flashed alternately, that drivers would confuse them with the wig-wag displays at grade crossings.

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