Getting drivers to stop in the middle of a block to let pedestrians cross can be tricky. In the US we use something called a HAWK signal. In other countries they have different ideas. Check out this HAWK-like relative in Kediri, Indonesia.

The yellow script atop the sign reads “Stop! All vehicles stop. Pedestrians have precedence. Thank you.” Images and video by the author.

I spotted this peculiar looking traffic signal on a recent family visit to the country. It spans a crosswalk that connects one of the city’s main shopping malls with a parking lot and theater across the street. While it uses conventional traffic lights, it functions almost exactly as HAWK signals (High-Intensity Activated crossWalK beacon) here in the US do (but it’s not exactly a HAWK, as those are specific to the US).

The Indonesian version’s default phase is a flashing yellow light (in the US, HAWK signals that aren’t in use usually remain dark) that warns drivers to approach with caution. When a pedestrian activates the signal’s push button, the light immediately changes to red. After about 12 seconds of walk time, the light changes to green for drivers. This lasts for about 10 seconds before returning to flashing yellow.

The Indonesian HAWK signal also has some other features that are unique from those we see in the US. There is an LED signboard that flashes messages to drivers, and even more noticeably, there is a horn that blares when the light is red (you can hear it in the video above).

Images and video by the author.

While the horn is a bit outlandish, planners in the US could learn a thing or two from how Indonesia has designed its HAWK signals. First, pedestrian waits are kept at a minimum, with the light changing immediately after someone pushes the button. This contrasts with DC’s HAWK lights, where pedestrians may wait upwards of one minute before getting right of way.

Translation: Attention! To cross, first wait for traffic light to flash, then press button.

The Indonesian version arguably has better signage, with large explanations of how to use the light for pedestrians. Though the LED board itself may be a bit distracting, the message, telling drivers to stop and emphasizing that pedestrians have the right of way, is a good one. Finally, the signal uses standard traffic lights and a simple yellow flashing phase. In the US, some have said the multiple flashing phases and unique shape of a HAWK light can be confusing.

Cleveland Park’s HAWK signal. Photo by Eric Fischer on Flickr.

Indonesia’s version certainly isn’t perfect, and if the video and my observations are any indication, people frequently ignored the light. But it put a smile on my face to see the city installed something like this to try to make the roads safer.

I could do without the horn, though.

Travis Maiers spent most of his life in South Florida before moving to the Washington region in 2009. He has a degree in International Studies from American University and works at a DC non-profit focused on international economic policy. He currently resides in the Forest Hills neighborhood of DC and enjoys learning about all things related to transportation and urban planning.