Timing is everything.
On Thursday the Department of Transportation began installing pedestrian countdown signals on Fourth Avenue. Starting at Pacific Street and working south all the way to Prospect Avenue, the signals are part of a larger initiative that has targeted 77 intersections. The east and west side of the chosen intersections, from Pacific up to 65th Street, will be done in a week.
The project, spurred from the DOT’s “Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan”, is part of a citywide effort to make 1,500 intersections safer. The signals are for “high-pedestrian crash locations” in all five boroughs and the implementation will continue through next year.
“It is about time! This is a family oriented neighborhood: there is P.S. 133 here, churches, high schools and a library. This is long overdue,” said Roberto Jeanniton who was pushing his 2-week-old daughter down Fourth Avenue followed by his 3-year-old son and his eldest daughter, who is 8. “This is a highway. People go 60 miles per hour sometimes. So many lives have been lost. Now, it’s safer for my kids.”
Jeanniton explained that he used to teach his kids to say, “Cross on the green, not in between” to cross the street safely. But now he doesn’t have to.
“Teaching kids to respect traffic is hard, but now with the light and the numbers, it just got a lot easier. My kids will see, with a numerical value, when it’s safe to cross,” Jeanniton said.
The new signals give pedestrians 22 seconds warning before the light changes. They have under 30 seconds to cross the six lanes safely. The signals, it is hoped, will help prevent between cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
And on Friday, most pedestrians were happy about the change and felt safer on the streets.
“I find it helpful, it gives me more patience and it makes it safer. I won’t run across the street this way,” said Adrian Johnson, who is a senpai at AmeriKick and who was taking his karate campers, ages 5-11, for a walk down the boulevard. “This way pedestrians wait for the light. Without the countdown, I usually try to run across if there’s a green light with no cars coming.”
But one biker, who was coming from her apartment in Carroll Gardens, said the time ticking away makes her nervous.
“They always make me panic! It makes me feel like the countdown is on,” said Katherine Burb, who was crossing Fourth Avenue on her bike. “It may be safer, for if there were only three seconds left I wouldn’t cross. ”
The DOT study, which was completed last year, found that the countdown signals helped pedestrians avoid getting caught in the middle of a wide street, like Fourth Avenue’s six lanes, when the signal changes. The countdown technology is designed to help pedestrians on streets exactly like this one.
“I’ve been driving on this road, passing cops going 70 miles per hour,” said Joey, who did not want to give his last name while he was filling his Honda at the Hess gas station at Union Street. “So I know this is not a safe street, but feel like this will help and I’m not going to speed no more.”