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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-16-040    Date:  July 2016
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-16-040
Date: July 2016


Evaluation of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons and Rapid Flashing Beacons

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The overall goal of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Research Program is to improve safety and mobility for pedestrians and bicyclists. The program strives to make it safer and easier for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers to share roadways through the development of safer crosswalks, sidewalks, and pedestrian technologies as well as through the expansion of educational and safety programs.

This report documents an FHWA project that includes four studies that investigated how characteristics of rectangular rapid-flashing beacons (RRFBs) and pedestrian hybrid beacons (PHBs) affected the likelihood of drivers yielding to a pedestrian. The results of this project supported the development of two Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices official interpretations for the RRFB: Official Interpretation #4(09)-41 (I)—Additional Flash Pattern for RRFBs and Official Interpretation #4(09)-58 (I)—Placement of RRFB Units Above Sign.(1–3) The overall 96 percent high yielding for PHBs identified in this research, along with findings from previous studies, support the use of this device at a variety of locations, such as on high-speed roads, wide roads, and at residential intersections.

This report should be of interest to engineers, planners, and other community authorities who share an interest in safeguarding the lives of roadway users, especially pedestrians.

Monique R. Evans
Director, Office of Safety
Research and Development


This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of the information contained in this document. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of the document.

Quality Assurance Statement

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) provides high-quality information to serve Government, industry, and the public in a manner that promotes public understanding. Standards and policies are used to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of its information. FHWA periodically reviews quality issues and adjusts its programs and processes to ensure continuous quality improvement.


Technical Report Documentation Page

1. Report No.


2. Government Accession No. 3 Recipient's Catalog No.
4. Title and Subtitle

Evaluation of Pedestrian Hybrid Beacons and Rapid Flashing Beacons

5. Report Date

July 2016

6. Performing Organization Code
7. Author(s)

Kay Fitzpatrick, Raul Avelar, Michael Pratt, Marcus Brewer, James Robertson, Tomas Lindheimer, and Jeff Miles

8. Performing Organization Report No.


9. Performing Organization Name and Address

Texas Transportation Institute
The Texas A&M University System
College Station, TX 77843-3135

10. Work Unit No. (TRAIS)

11. Contract or Grant No.

DTFH61-08-D-00032, Task Order #8

12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address

Office of Safety Research and Development
Federal Highway Administration
6300 Georgetown Pike
McLean, VA 22101-2296

13. Type of Report and Period Covered

Technical Report:
October 2012–March 2016

14. Sponsoring Agency Code


15. Supplementary Notes

The Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative was Ann Do, HRDS-30.

16. Abstract

Two pedestrian treatments receiving national attention are the rectangular rapid-flashing beacon (RRFB) and the pedestrian hybrid beacon (PHB). These devices have unique characteristics that produce improved vehicle stopping and yielding to crossing pedestrians. This Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) project includes multiple studies to help refine these devices. A closed-course RRFB study measured the time to determine the position and direction of a cutout representation of a pedestrian on a crosswalk to identify conditions that produced faster and more accurate recognition. Placing the beacons above rather than below the warning sign produced better recognition. A following open-road study investigated driver yielding when the beacons were located above and below the warning sign at 13 sites. Results indicated that any differences between the above and below positions were minor and statistically insignificant. With the apparent benefits identified from the closed-course study (i.e., lower discomfort and improved ability to detect the pedestrian) and the lack of difference in driver yielding, locating the beacons above the sign could improve the overall effectiveness of this treatment. FHWA issued an official interpretation in early 2016 to permit the placement of the beacons above the sign.(3) An open-road study was also conducted to determine driver yielding for different RRFB flash patterns at eight sites, seven of which were four-lane crossings with 40- or 45-mi/h speed limits. The patterns selected for evaluation were the 2-5 flash pattern (two flashes on one side followed by five flashes on other side) that was currently in use, a pattern using a combination of wig-wag and simultaneous (WW+S) flashes, and a pattern using a combination of long and short flashes called “blocks.” The statistical analysis showed no statistical significant difference between patterns; in other words, the newer patterns were as effective as the 2-5 flash pattern. As a result, FHWA issued an official interpretation indicating the preference for the WW+S pattern.(2) In the final study, behaviors at PHBs were investigated. The PHB has shown great potential in improving safety and driver yielding; however, questions have been asked regarding actual driver and pedestrian behavior. For the 20PHB sites in the open-road study, driver yielding to pedestrians averaged 96percent. Overall, 91 percent of the pedestrians pushed the pushbutton to activate the PHB in the crosswalk. A greater percentage number of pedestrians activated the device when on 45-mi/h posted speed limit roads as compared to roads with posted speed limits of 40 mi/h or less.

17. Key Words

Rectangular rapid-flashing beacon, Pedestrian hybrid beacon, RRFB, PHB, Pedestrian crossing, Driver yielding to pedestrians, Pedestrian crosswalk

18. Distribution Statement

No restrictions. This document is available to the public through the National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161.

19. Security Classification
(of this report)


20. Security Classification
(of this page)


21. No. of Pages


22. Price
Form DOT F 1700.7 (8-72) Reproduction of completed page authorized

SI* (Modern Metric) Conversion Factors





ADT average daily traffic  
ANOVA analysis of variance  
BEC beyond end of cycle  
CRFB circular rapid-flashing beacon  
DF degrees of freedom  
FHWA  Federal Highway Administration  
GLMM   generalized linear mixed effects model  
HAWK  high-intensity activated crosswalk  
IA interim approval  
IQR interquartile range  
LED light-emitting diode  
LMM linear mixed effects model  
LT left-turn movement originating from the major street  
LT1 left-turn movement originating from the minor street  
MOE measure of effectiveness  
MUTCD   Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices  
NCHRP National Cooperative Highway Research Program  
NPA  Notice of Proposed Amendment  

National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

PHB pedestrian hybrid beacon  
RRFB Rectangular rapid-flashing beacon  
RT2 right-turn movement originating from the minor street  
SAE Society of Automotive Engineers  
SSD stopping sight distance  
STC Signals Technical Committee  
TAMU Texas A&M University  
TCS traffic control signal  
TH1/TH2 through movements on the minor-street approaches  
TTI Texas A&M Transportation Institute  
TWLTL Two-way left-turn lane  
WW+S wig-wag and simultaneous  



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