Letitia James Clarifies Pedestrian Right of Way and the Countdown Clock
UPDATE: The NYC Council unanimously voted to pass Intro 997-A, Public Advocate Letitia James’ proposal to bolster legal protections for people in crosswalks. It was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio on September 28, 2016.
Not many know what it feels like to be stranded on a desert island.
However, in NYC if pedestrians followed a statute made decades ago they’d know what it’s like be stranded on a concrete island median. Section 4-03 of the Rules of the City of New York states, “Pedestrians facing a [Flashing DON’T WALK, red hand symbol or red standing figure] signal are warned that there is insufficient time to cross the roadway and no pedestrian shall enter or cross the roadway. Pedestrians already in the roadway shall proceed to the nearest safety island or sidewalk. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to such pedestrians.” McGuinness Boulevard has a 25 second countdown clock combined with less than a 10 second Walk signal: following this rule would mean you’d only get as far as the middle island before the countdown clock would start, stranding you for the remainder of the half minute and then having to wait for another “green” cycle.
On Tuesday, November 10th, Public Advocate Letitia James submitted legislation to “insure right-of-way protection for the duration of the countdown clock, or the flashing red hand” to pedestrians. This would update the behind the times Section 4-03 that protects drivers from liability if they hit a pedestrian who left a sidewalk or median during the red flash of the countdown clock.
The intent of installing countdown clocks was to help pedestrians calculate if they had time enough to cross. If they countdown was lit in the shade of green or yellow or any other color but red, the old statute wouldn’t apply. Strengthening pedestrians right of way is a key linchpin of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero, and the Right-of-Way Law was passed in August 2014, a law that authorizes the prosecution of drivers whose disregard of a pedestrian’s right of way causes injury or death. However the DOT measures that the law was applied in just over 1% of about 1,000 failure-to-yield cases between September and December of 2014. A recent case in point: this month an MTA bus driver has not been charged in the death of a 69-year-old woman who he hit in a Forrest Hills crosswalk.
This Queen’s woman was among those remembered on November 15th. The World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims (WDR) is commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year – to remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads. This year the WDR celebrates its 20th year and the 10th anniversary of its adoption by the United Nations. Families for Safe Streets and the rest of the TransAlt communities led a “wear yellow” march from City Hall to the United Nations.