Skip to main content

Crosswalk Countdowns

New York City is installing 1500 countdown clocks in an attempt to improve pedestrian safety. I've typically found these types of signals helpful as a pedestrian, as they eliminate any questions about how much time I need to get across the street.

(from Flickr user Richard Drdul)

I've always wondered how countdown clocks influence the behavior of motorists. While their primary intent is to inform pedestrians, a secondary consequence is that they allow motorists to know exactly how much time they have to get through an intersection before the light turns.

I specifically remember from Drivers Ed when the instructor told me how to react when approaching an intersection with a "stale green" - ie. an intersection that you didn't see turn from red to green and could turn back to red at any moment. In those situations, you're supposed to take your foot off the accelerator and cover the break. That said, few seem to actually follow this rule.

Nevertheless, the question these countdown clocks raise is whether they cause motorists to behave in ways that lessen the probability of a wreck. In theory, a motorist who knows they will never make in through an intersection in time should prepare to stop early. A motorist who knows they have plenty of time doesn't need to worry about slamming on the breaks if the light suddenly turns. I'm skeptical that this is exactly how it plays out in reality, but I certainly would be interested to see some study on this question.

Comments

Donnie said…
I love these as both a pedestrian and a motorist.

As a motorist, the thing I hate most in the world is that feeling that you get when you are so close to the light and it turns yellow, and you have to decide whether to go forward or slam on the breaks.

These give me an excuse to stop early.
Anonymous said…
In some of the countries I've visited in southeast Asia, they actually have a timer for the motorists! Chaos usually ensues with those running through at the last moment and those already moving in anticipation of green.
B. P. Beckley said…
If you're going down a stretch of street with many many timed lights (like Rt. 1 in Alexandria) you can use the pedestrian clocks to tell you whether you should speed up to avoid hitting a yellow...

Popular posts from this blog

In Praise of Southwest's 'C' Boarding Group

A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from someone complaining that their Southwest Airlines boarding pass had been assigned A20 (meaning they would be at least one of the first twenty passengers to board the plane). Apparently this person though they should have been assigned a higher number, less their flight experience be considerably spoiled.

Despite the complaints, Southwest has resisted demands to assign seats on its flights, a decision which I personally applaud. I'll admit that I was skeptical when they rolled out the newest boarding procedure, assigning both boarding groups and a line number; but in hindsight it seems like one of the best operational decisions they've ever made. If nothing else, it effectively eliminated the infamous "cattle call" whereby fliers were getting to airports hours in advance and sitting in line on the floor as if they were waiting for the midnight showing of the new Star Wars movie.

When I was an intern at Southwest Airlines last winter, I…

So You Want to be a Southwest Airlines Intern?

My personal website must have pretty decent SEO - because in the past year, I've received about two dozen emails from aspiring Southwest Airlines interns looking to draw on my experience in search of their own dream internship. In the past two weeks alone a few new emails have already started rolling in...

(from flickr user San Diego Shooter)

If you've found your way here, you might be hoping for the silver bullet; a secret tip that will propel you above the competition. Unfortunately, I do not know any inside secrets. I can only share my experience as an internship candidate about two years ago and, rather than responding individually to future emails I anticipate to receive, I hope that potential interns will find the information posted here valuable.

Understand: Southwest Airlines is a very unique company. The corporate culture at Southwest is truly unlike that of nearly every other company. But you probably already knew that, since it now seems mandatory for every management,…

Commuting Meets Technology

I'm finally out of the dark ages. I got an Android smartphone over the weekend and have since been in the process of exploring the Android apps market.  One thing I've immediately noticed is the really wide range of usefulness in the apps. For example, the WeatherBug app is fantastic. It automatically determines your location and gives you exact conditions for that location. On the other end of the spectrum, Google's Goggles app is supposed to be a type of 'visual search' where you snap of photo of something and Google searches for it. In each of my attempts to use it, the app hasn't returned any search results. I even took a photo of a bottle of Pepsi (figuring it as a common houseful item) and got nothing.

Somewhere in the middle is this app called Waze. Have a look at their 'guided tour':



Some people might look at it and comment on the amazing evolution of technology or on the incredible value of social networks. To me, Waze says something important ab…