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Friday, August 26, 2011

Westfield Report On HAWK Pedestrian Light Is an Incomplete Analysis: Falls Short of Validating Mayor's "Safer Location" Claim

     Westfield Chief of Police "pads" report to justify Mayor Skibitsky's false claims that the pedestrian light is safer mid-block.

     Federal report publication No. FHWA-HRT-10-042, dated July 2010, is a report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration titled "Safety Effectiveness of the HAWK Pedestrian Crossing Treatment.  It appears that the federal report was referenced by Westfield Police Chief John M. Parizeau in his report to Mayor Skibitsky.  Chief Parizeau's report is titled "Report on the Effectiveness of the HAWK Pedestrian Activated Mid-block Crosswalk Located on Central Avenue nearest to Cambridge Road."  

     The federal report is referenced by Westfield Police Chief John Parizeau in his own report he submitted to town officials.  Much of the police department's report appears to be a "copy and paste" job to gather information to create a report to cover or validate Mayor Skibitsky's claim that the current location of the pedestrian light on Central Ave. is a safer location than the intersection.  The Mayor has yet to provide or reference any expert engineering report that validates his "safer location" claim. 
     TFoTM believes Chief Parizeau was instructed, by Mayor Skibitsky, to compile the report in an attempt to "cover" the Mayor's tracks..

   The Westfield Police Department's report does not include some key information such as the sentence prior to the paragraph that Chief of Police obviously copied and pasted to his Westfield Report if you compare the two reports.  Chief Parizeau left out a key fact by neglecting to print the entire paragraph.  The part of the paragraph that is quoted in the Westfield report, that appears in the Federal report, starts out with the words, "The purpose of the HAWK is.........."  What precedes those words in the Federal report can be found below and at the following link where the Federal version issued by the FHWA references intersections:
The yellow text is what Chief Parizeua left out of the Westfield report:

The city of Tucson, Arizona, developed the High intensity Activated crossWalk (HAWK) pedestrian crossing beacon in the late 1990's to assist in pedestrian crossings, especially for major arterials at minor street intersections.  The purpose of the HAWK is to stop vehicles to allow pedestrians to cross the roadway and then permit drivers to proceed as soon as the pedestrians have passed.  This application provides a pedestrian crossing without signal control for the side street because signal control on the side street can encourage unwanted additional traffic through the neighborhood.

Why did Chief Parizeau leave the words "especially for major arterials at minor street intersection" out of his report?

Central Ave is a major arterial at the intersection with Clover St.  The purpose or intent of the HAWK Pedestrian Light is: 
1. Provide a safe crossing for school children and others and,
2. Minimize traffic flow interruptions, and
3. Prevent cut through traffic on side residential streets.

The HAWK would satisfy all three if located at the intersection where motorists expect a crosswalk and pedestrians to be.

     Lastly, and more importantly, the Westfield report does not address "driver compliance" with regard to the HAWK pedestrian light here in Westfield.. 
     One of the major complaints by residents has been that "drivers" are running the red light and creating a dangerous situation for pedestrians most likely because mid-block crossings are unfamiliar to motorists.  Motorists just don't readily expect mid-block crossings as much as they expect crossings at intersections. 
     Instead of focusing on drivers' compliance rates here in Westfield, Chief Parizeau focused his study on pedestrian usage and compliance. 
     The compliance rate that is quoted in the Federal report and pasted to Chief Parizeau's report indicates that "DRIVERS," not pedestrians, have produced a 95% compliance rate in studies done in Arizona.  The driver compliance rate refers to the HAWK installations at a majority of locations that are intersections and not mid-block.
Why didn't Chief Parizeau include "DRIVER compliance" rates/data for the location here in Westfield?  Easy answer..............because it has been proven time and time again that the light is a danger at it's current location and if provided, a Driver Compliance percentage at the Westfield mid-block location would produce a much lower percentage due to the unfamiliar mid-block crossing thus refuting Mayor Skibitsky's claim that the current mid-block location is safer than the intersection.
     Because Westfield officials have neglected to provide residents and/or motorists with any knowledge or instructions on the use of the HAWK Pedestrian Activated Crosswalk, go to the following link below to view the proper use of the HAWK system.  Take note of the location of the an intersection.      

SAFETY NOTE: Pedestrians at the Westfield mid-block location might not experience the same results as the pedestrian in this video.  When in Westfield, especially at the mid-block HAWK crossing, cross at your own risk and don't rely on the location of this light and/or the light to to give you a false sense of safety.

Video of pedestrian using HAWK crossing:



  2. It would be interesting to find out how much time the police department diverted from its usual police duties in order to create this politically necessary document.If you had a policeman set up the machinery to count cars and pedestrians etc. they were removed from their usual duties.
    The least that could be done, if you are going to blatantly copy a federal report,is to give full quotes. Don't cherry-pick the quotes that only support the desired result.Does it surprise anyone that the federal report is aimed at a HAWK located at an intersection rather than at mid-block?
    A.John Blake

  3. I have been collecting data for months on the compliance percentage of motorists at this mid block Hawk light location and the results are overwhelmingly conclusive. Ninety percent of the time I either witness the light being activated or I use it myself, one to two cars always blow through the solid red light. It is shocking and disturbing to see how many people simply do not see the light. Was I surprised that this obvious problem was never mentioned in the police report? Please, spare me and all the residents whose lives are now in danger because of the placement of this pedestrian activated light. We who live in the immediate vicinity of this light and witness first hand on a daily basis all its tragic flaws know exactly what it's going to take to have it moved. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Their blood will be on your hands mayor and the entire town council for that matter.