Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Research & Innovation

User Understanding of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon Operation

Need statement 725

Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons were widely deployed in Tucson, AZ, and some other communities prior to the release of the 2009 Federal MUTCD and had utilized a standard flashing red pattern.  Upon incorporation into the Federal MUTCD, the standard flashing red pattern on these devices was changed to a required "wig-wag" (alternating) pattern, though it's unclear if this change was supported by any research with respect to driver understanding of the wig-wag red pattern, with drivers generally failing to proceed once allowed to do so. Drivers otherwise encounter wig-wag red signals at railroad crossings and on school buses, both situations where proceeding past the indication is restricted or forbidden, for good reason.

Many agencies have noted a lack of driver understanding of the alternating red pattern at pedestrian hybrid beacons and have developed various supplemental signs to inform drivers that they may proceed after stopping. The draft edition of the next Federal MUTCD includes a standardized sign (R10-23a) for this purpose, but it too may be untested for driver comprehension.

The goal of this project would be to:

  1. Conduct simulator or video-based research into driver understanding of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacon indications in the absence of signage, and the effectiveness of various sign messages, such as "flashing red" vs. "alternating red" or potential use of symbols.  Include, as one option, the R10-23a sign (which is proposed in the upcoming Federal MUTCD once adopted or as proposed during the Notice of Proposed Amendment).  Although not currently permitted for use by the MUTCD, the original simultaneous flashing red (rather than alternating red) should be included without signage in the simulation as a baseline option.
  2. Provide practitioners with best practices with respect to sign design including legend, text size, and overall panel size for overhead installation at pedestrian hybrid beacons in various conditions.

Suggested deliverables

  • Report on the methodology and findings from the simulator research
  • Short guidebook on best practices for design for practitioners
  • One-page handout for elected officials and the public describing what to do when you encounter a pedestrian hybrid beacon.
    •  A supplemental short 1-minute video depicting the same information

Previous research

As stated, this will expand on the Tucson, AZ research and FHWA’s 2016 studies on driver behaviors to include the public’s interpretation and response to various messaging like the “wig wag” pattern.

Possible members for technical advisory panel

  • MnDOT OTE (Derek Leuer, Mark Wagner, Maxwell Moreland)
  • MnDOT SA (Girma Feyissa, Thomas Prew)
  • Also include MnDOT Ped staff (Hannah Pritchard)
  • Carver County
  • Any agencies that have installed a PHB
  • City of Hutchinson
  • City of Burnsville
  • Dakota County
  • Blake Redfield, City of Saint Cloud
  • City of Saint Paul