Why New York is hiding street traffic signals on sidewalks

Written by By Laila Al-Arian, CNN

Memo to NYC pedestrians: Starting today, the city is testing a new pilot program that will temporarily hide the pedestrian signal above the sidewalk.

The new functionality is a response to a growing problem for pedestrians: Many intersections in Manhattan have dead-end streets with no way to cross. Some are three-lane thoroughfares that have limited crossing space at any one time, while others are narrow, two-lane streets that have a short distance for pedestrians between them and the curb.

Research suggests that such intersections cause cars to slow down during crosswalks, which makes them safer for pedestrians. But being able to stand on the sidewalk and cross at the same time as passing cars has complicated the process.

Delicate balancing act

The pilot project will start today on street 9 between Fifth and Sixth avenues in Manhattan’s west side between Sixth and Eighth avenues and in Greenwich Village, between Spring and Greene streets.

“There are several streets in NYC where the only way to cross from one end to the other is by going over a small gap between parked cars and curb where pedestrians have to balance themselves over the curb and go around cars to cross the street,” the city’s Department of Transportation said in a statement.

The same holds true of other inner city neighborhoods, including Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant, where there are many dead-end or narrow streets without crosswalks.

“We need to find a creative solution that works for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists as well as first responders,” the DOT’s Sanjay Shah said in a statement.

‘This really is a new day’

Drivers who are driving in a way that makes the test areas of Manhattan unsafe for them to cross are expected to be cited for reckless driving.

“Let’s be clear, this really is a new day for New York City,” Shah said. “The pilot program will give us an opportunity to learn about this very important issue.”

In the meantime, the DOT is asking pedestrians, drivers and cyclists to inform the DOT about any issues they may have if the program is extended beyond the initial 10-day trial period.

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