This Kendall Square stoplight comes with a set of directions

–Suzanne Kreiter / The Boston Globe

If you’re driving around Kendall Square and see an odd traffic light, you might want to stop and grab a set of instructions.

The new signal at Sixth and Binney Streets known as the “High-Intensity Activated crossWalk,’’ or HAWK for short, was installed outside of Biogen in Kendall Square, where Biogen employees handed out fliers with a diagram and directions that explained how the light works, The Boston Globe reported.

Rather than one cluster of three vertical lights, the intersection has three groups of three lights, with two on top and one on the bottom. When the walkway is clear, the light turns off, which indicates that cars can proceed through the intersection without stopping, according to the diagram.


If a pedestrian hits the walk button, a yellow light will first flash, then turn solid yellow, both of which are meant to warn the driver to slow down. Next, the two top lights turn red, indicating that the driver should stop. Finally, the red lights flash, meaning that the driver should still stop, but can then proceed with caution once the walkway clears, the instructions say.

This is the first HAWK in Cambridge, but the new system has been popping up in other intersections around the country, the Globe reported.

To combat the confusion drivers will likely have when approaching the light, police will continue to staff a crossing guard in the area during high traffic times as drivers learn how to navigate the intersection, Jeremy Warnick, a spokesman for the Cambridge Police Department, told Eventually, however, police will enforce the rules of the intersection as they would any other in the city.

“There’s clearly going to be a learning curve,’’ he said. For those unfamiliar with the traffic light who fail to stop, Warnick said officers will review the violations on a case by case basis.

While it might look confusing, HAWK has proven to be significantly safer for pedestrians, with crash rates dropping up to 35 percent in some locations, according to a study from the Federal Highway Administration.


Still, not everyone is convinced that the change is a good thing.

“I have no idea how cars are going to know,’’ Jennifer Dovey, who works at Biogen, told the Globe. “I drive down this street, and I would have no idea what these lights mean.’’

Read the full Globe story here.

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