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Parking is not the same as dropping off

A NEW KIND OF PEDESTRIAN SIGNAL is now on Isleta near McEwen to help students at Kit Carson Elementary and Ernie Pyle Middle schools cross the busy arterial safely.

Bernalillo County installed the $90,000 mid-block signal earlier this month using a Safe Routes to School federal grant from the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

Called a high-intensity activated crosswalk (HAWK), it’s ” the first of its kind in Bernalillo County and the metro area,” according to a county news release.

What makes it different is the entire signal system at the intersection is pedestrian-activated. “When pedestrians push the crosswalk button, vehicles get a red stoplight, so that pedestrians can safely cross the roadway. The system then automatically allows traffic to continue as soon as the pedestrians have crossed the street,” the release says.

Here’s how it works, according the county:

• Lights on the overhead mastarm across the road are off, dark until activated by a pedestrian.

• Then the lights are flashing yellow, meaning a pedestrian has pushed the button to activate the cycle.

• Then the lights go steady yellow, warning drivers pedestrians are ready to cross.

• Then the lights are steady red, telling drivers they must stop and allowing pedestrians to cross the road; pedestrians get a white walk symbol for seven seconds.

• Then the lights flash red while pedestrians finish crossing; pedestrians get a 16-second countdown.

• And then the lights are off until another pedestrian pushes the button.

The signal has been operational since Oct. 8 and can be used 24-7, the county says.

ALAMEDA FIX IN THE WORKS: David Mitchell, director of Operations and Maintenance for Bernalillo County, says “we are moving ahead on a memorandum of understanding for Alameda adaptive signals for the city section west of the river.”

Those signals respond in real-time to help clear backups, rather than relying on a pre-set timing sequence. The system is already in use on the county’s Alameda signals, east of the river from Loretta to Second.

Mitchell says “after (Paseo del Norte) construction it should alleviate some of the pressure to three-lane Alameda across the river for hopefully a lot of years.”

FORTUNA POLICING, STOPPING AND PARKING ARE DIFFERENT: After a recent column mentioned drivers are speeding down Fortuna and parking illegally near West Mesa High, John emails “I’m on that street every day, just driving through. The Albuquerque and Albuquerque Public Schools police departments are there now. They started stopping parents dropping off their kids.”

His point is “they aren’t breaking any law by doing that: The posted signs say No Parking; they aren’t parking, only stopping. If I park there, then I’d be breaking the law.”

He suggests that “if needed, a sign to say that this is a no stopping or dropping off-area” might be in order, along with “posting online so parents would know.”

THANKS FOR THE SPACE! JoAnn Chreist emails she agrees with a recent column on leaving space between cars “but have never understood why people leave all that space when stopped at a light. It eliminates people being able to get into a left turn lane….grrr!….and also limits the number of cars able to get through the green light.”

BUT NOT FOR RUNNING THE RED: JoAnn also has a bone to pick with those who “think it’s OK to turn left well after their green turn arrow is finished. At most busy intersections, when our green light comes on, we cannot proceed until all the cars turning illegally in front of us have finished.”

TRAFFIC DEATHS DOWN OVER THREE MONTHS: Ninety-one people died on New Mexico roads in July, August and September of this year, compared with 96 in those months last year, according to the data experts at the University of New Mexico and the Traffic Safety Bureau.

In the three months this year, 55 of the deaths were in vehicles, 12 were on motorcycles, four were on all-terrain vehicles, three were on bikes and 17 were pedestrians. Alcohol was a factor in at least 35 of the deaths.

So far this year, of the 166 people killed in vehicles, 56 were wearing seat belts. Of the 41 killed on motorcycles, one was wearing a helmet.

Assistant editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858;; or P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.