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Warning signal aims to ease dangers at Moiliili crosswalk

By Marcie Kagawa

LAST UPDATED: 1:34 a.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012

Five years after a car critically injured McCully resident Gwyne Isa in a Moiliili crosswalk, the city will dedicate a pedestrian-activated warning signal at the crosswalk today.

"One of the issues that I think we've all heard much about is un-signalized crosswalks," said Wayne Yoshi­oka, director of the Department of Transportation Services. "The goal is to increase safety at all un-signalized crosswalks, and in doing so, the Department of Transportation Services has been doing several projects to test at these crosswalks."

Pedestrians can activate the signal, an overhead yellow flashing light, at the South King Street crosswalk near Times Supermarkets, between Pawaa Lane and Hau­oli Street. The light will flash for 90 seconds.

The signal is not a command for drivers to stop, but is intended to increase their awareness of pedestrians in the crosswalk, Yoshi­oka said.

"Pedestrians have to remember that vehicles aren't required to stop," he said. "They're just warning beacons."

The signal is part of a pilot project to evaluate its effectiveness in improving pedestrian safety and could lead to the installation of similar devices elsewhere.

A similar pedestrian-activated signal that flashes a roadside yellow light is in use at a crosswalk on Kamehameha Highway, at the entrance to Hawaii Pacific University's Windward campus.

On Nov. 20, 2011, a month after its installation, HPU student Mariah Danforth-Moore was killed by a hit-and-run driver while using the crosswalk.

Emergency Medical Services responded to 35 pedestrian injuries on the stretch of South King Street between Kalakaua Avenue and University Avenue from 2007 to 2011, according to statistics from the state Department of Health.

"That whole corridor on King Street has actually experienced a high number of injuries, but that particular crosswalk we've been looking at for years," said Jackie Boland, director of outreach for AARP Hawaii.

"When you walk out on it, it's very hard for cars to see you. You'd have to be about a quarter of the way out already."

Ron Lockwood, McCully Neighborhood Board chairman, said, "For pedestrian safety we've been out sign-waving for cars to slow down and working with HPD. … (The board has) been active at this crosswalk since 2007, when Gwyne got hit. She's one of the AARP volunteers and a resident here, so it really struck home for us."

Isa sustained head, brain and other injuries in the accident, Lockwood said, and continues to undergo therapy in Hawaii and California. She will attend today's 10 a.m. dedication along with Mayor Peter Carlisle, other city officials and pedestrian safety advocates.

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