Study shows most motorists stopping for pedestrians at Hawthorne intersection — when people use flashing crossing signal properly

Published 4:45 pm Thursday, March 9, 2023

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Results of a study released Thursday by the city of Albert Lea showed that the crossing enhancements at Bridge Avenue’s intersection with Hawthorne Street are working as intended — when pedestrians push the button at the flashing lights to alert motorists they intend to cross the street.

The study was conducted by SRF Consulting Group after the reconstruction of Bridge Avenue, which reconstructed the two-lane roadway with a shared left-turn lane in the center.

The project also replaced the traffic signal at Hawthorne with a rapid-flashing beacon for pedestrian crossings and installed accessible sidewalk ramps at each corner of the intersection.

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The study found 100% of vehicles stopped for pedestrians crossing Hawthorne on school days when the pedestrian button was activated and a crossing guard was present. The guard is at the intersection before and after school as students cross the street to go to and from nearby Hawthorne Elementary School.

During the week, the study also found 95% of vehicles stopped for pedestrians when they used the flashing lights without a crossing guard.

On a Saturday, 73% of vehicles stopped for pedestrians who pushed the button, and none stopped for pedestrians who did not push the button and instead waited for a break in traffic.

The study found walkers and bicyclists were less likely to use the pedestrian button during non-school times.

The findings were based on 53 pedestrian crossings on weekdays with the majority occurring during peak school arrival and departure times. There were 27 crossings on a Saturday.

The study also looked at the intersection of Bridge Avenue with Sheridan Street and found that no vehicles stopped for pedestrians waiting to cross Bridge at Sheridan on weekdays in the study period, and 37% of vehicles stopped for pedestrians waiting to cross on a Saturday.

The findings were based on 23 pedestrian crossings on weekdays and 19 on a Saturday.

The study also looked at the speed of vehicles on Bridge Avenue using radar detection and found that the average speed was 32 mph on weekdays for both the span from Sheridan to Hawthorne and from the Freeborn County fairgrounds entrance to Richway Drive. The average speed increased to 32.4 mph and 33.9 mph on the weekends, respectively.

The Albert Lea Police Department in a press release encouraged pedestrians to push the button at the signal before crossing the street.

“No pedestrian crossing is ever 100 percent safe. People always need to use caution when crossing a street,” said J.D. Carlson, Albert Lea public safety director. “At this intersection, pedestrians should push the button and wait for traffic to stop before crossing the street.”