New crosswalk clocks count you down

Soon, pedestrians won’t have to worry about getting “caught” in the middle of intersections.

The common problem, of when people cross the street only to have the walk sign run out abruptly when they haven’t yet made it to safety, was addressed in a major study by the Department of Transportation. The study, according to DOT press secretary Monty Dean, included major intersections at all five boroughs, and concluded that countdown signals, which show the amount of seconds left until the walk sign is over, are the safest, most effective way to aid pedestrians at wider crosswalks.

Seven new spots along East Gun Hill Road have already been installed with the new clocks, all of them along East Gun Hill Road: Jerome Avenue, Dekalb Avenue, Bainbridge Avenue, Rochambeau Avenue, Wayne Avenue, Tryon Avenue, and Kings College Place. The clocks have been so well-received that now, according to Dean, “We are currently looking for more installation locations across the City.”

“I think these things are really nice,” said Sharon Brown, 68, as she crossed the street at East Gun Hill Road and Kings College Place. “It’s helpful to see how much time I got. They should’ve put these in much earlier is the truth.”

But not everyone loves the clocks. Denise Colon, who lives right on the corner of Tryon Avenue and East Gun Hill Road, said that the clocks make her feel pressured to rush.

“The old way was better,” she said. “My friends and I have noticed these, and we all think it’s stupid. Now we feel like we have to hurry across. But it’s my right to cross the street, once I’m in the middle, I’m obviously getting across. Cars know that. Now, with these, I feel guilty like I have to hustle.”

The way the clocks work is that after the traditional walk sign — that recognizablewhite outline of a walking person — is illuminated for 50 seconds, the person changes to a flashing hand, accompanied by large, easily legible numbers that begin at 15 and count down. Once they get to 0, the hand stops flashing, and it’s no longer safe to be in the street. The DOT says that it depends on the person, but in general a good rule is not to try crossing if the numbers are past 8 seconds.

Whether people feel the countdown clocks help them or are in place to mock them, the attitude of DOT and city officials is that their intention, at least, is positive.

“They’re a very good thing,” said John Fratta, district manager of Community Board 11. “These have been coming for a while, and they’re only going to make it easier for people crossing the street.”

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