Our Town: East Side Intersections Get Countdown Signals
By Dan Rivoli
August 18, 2010
The city announced the installation of 1,500 countdown signals at intersections, including Park Avenue, after a report found pedestrian injuries happen more on multi-lane streets.
“The report and actions detailed today, including the installation of pedestrian countdown signals across the city, will make our streets even safer,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement, “especially for the pedestrians who, year in and year out, account for the majority of New York’s traffic fatalities.”
Park Avenue was selected to be a countdown signal corridor, from East 32nd Street to East 132nd Street. The first 250 countdown signals will be installed this month with the rest phased in over the next year.
The city wants the inclusion of pedestrian countdown signals to be the standard for new installations on wide streets.
An earlier pilot program that featured these signals at 24 intersections in five corridors showed that they reduced the number of pedestrians in the crosswalk when the light was about to turn green. On narrower streets, the report notes the countdown signals had no effect.
“Pedestrian countdown signals can help cut out any guesswork in crossing busy intersections to keep pedestrians from being caught in the middle of a dangerous situation,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan in a statement.
The report reviewed more than 7,000 crash records to find out who is at risk for a pedestrian accident.
Manhattan has a high concentration of serious accidents. Four times as many pedestrians are killed or seriously injured per mile of street than in the four outer boroughs. Nearly half of those pedestrians killed in Manhattan lived outside the borough.
Most of the accidents, 79 percent, involve private vehicles and 80 percent involve male drivers.
Seniors are especially at risk when crossing wide streets. The report found that seniors comprise 38 percent fatalities, though they make up 12 percent of the population.
East Side Council Member Jessica Lappin, who chairs the Aging Committee, said the city is the third most dangerous for senior pedestrians.
“My hope is that these changes will make it safer for seniors, children and everyone in between,” Lappin said. “Making sure they know how much time they have to cross, and in certain instances increase time to cross, should make a big difference.”
Michael Auerbach, president of the environmental and transportation advocacy group Upper Green Side, called the report a confirmation of what New Yorkers already know about heavily-trafficked streets.
“The countdown timers have been long awaited. They have them in other cities. They’re proven and they save lives,” Auerbach said. “[The Upper East Side] is a place where people live, go to school, go shopping. They’re on the street in these neighborhoods and they need these safety improvements.”