Concerns about the HAWK not halting traffic

Posted at 6:46 PM, Jun 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 14:09:15-04

A new HAWK cross signal is supposed to make it easier for pedestrians and bicyclists on Tonawanda Rails to Trail get across Sheridan Drive, but instead it’s raising concerns.

The HAWK cross signal, or "High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon," is a new type of traffic signal used at pedestrian walkways. The signal is only activated when there is actually a pedestrian present who needs to cross and does not otherwise affect vehicular traffic.

The HAWK signal on Sheridan Drive in the Town of Tonawanda went live on Friday. Since then, several walkers and bicyclists say they have witnessed cars coming to a screeching halt at the light since it began working. They believe drivers are confused about how the light works, which is why one Tonawanda mom said she won’t be crossing anytime soon.

“The cars don’t tend to stop. They are coming fast anyway so when it’s time to stop it’s a little bit nerve-wreaking to watch them slam on the brakes,” Tracy Ficorilli said.

As of Monday afternoon, Town of Tonawanda Police had issued eight tickets to drivers who didn’t stop while the light was red. However, that’s not the only problem officers are seeing.

“We also observing that people using the trail are not pushing the button to activate the signal. They’re just going across,” Lieutenant Nick Bado with Town of Tonawanda Police said.

Some residents believe the pedestrian stop signs should be moved closer to the road.

“To make you more aware to stop because the cars are not used to stopping at this brand new light,” resident Rita Cress said.

Others say they believe the HAWK signals will soon become second nature to drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

“It’s going to take a little time for people to get used to the idea and how to utilize the HAWK system. I think all in all it’s going to work out well,” said Tim Denny, who frequently runs on the trail.

Police say they are planning to patrol the area more frequently until people get used to the HAWK crossing.