StreetFilm: Crosswalks #1

From StreetFilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr.:

With all the great achievements that are abounding in the livable streets movement, sometimes we need to revisit reality. Recently, I stumbled upon a cache of traffic b-roll I was gathering during the summer of cars infringing on pedestrian rights. I’ll gamble we’ve all seen worse scenes, probably daily, but it just got me a little mad.

So to our leaders who are debating – and frankly many throwing up roadblocks to – congestion pricing: take a look and stop worrying about the fraction of NYC drivers you are protecting. It’s obvious – a serious congestion pricing plan would definitely benefit pedestrians and alleviate some of the everyday, dangerous gridlock we navigate.

Please note: every shot in this montage is while the pedestrian has the right of way. And yeah, as bad as this footage is, New Yorkers know it is only the tip of the everyday iceberg. If we really wanted to, we could shoot one of these per day and post them. Thus, this gets the "#1" in the title.

  • da

    This just makes my blood boil…

    What’s really sad is the sort of resigned look on the faces of the pedestrians, like this is just the way it is, just a kind of natural phenomenon like the wind or the rain, nothing that anyone could do anything about.


  • Eric

    A few days ago, a little after 5 p.m., I was driving northbound on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, crossing Flatbush Avenue and proceeding onto Hanson Place. At Hanson Place, there is a sign saying “Yield to Pedestrians in Crosswalk.” A young woman was about to step off the curb, so I stepped on the brakes, we made eye contact, I waved her ahead, and she started to cross. At the same time, the impatient jerk behind me hit the gas, swung around me, and luckily, managed to stop just before running the woman over.

    I actually felt guilty that I had unwittingly almost set her up to be mowed down.

    Is it me, or does New York City do absolutely nothing to enforce pedestrian safety at crosswalks?

  • kelley

    Does anyone have experience w/ making a scene? Pounding with a fist on the hood of the car? I’ve noticed drivers who block intersections make a point of avoiding eye contact with the pedestrians–they know who’s in the wrong. But I’m not thrilled of the idea of the driver escalating the situation in response since I’m not protected by 2 tons of steel…

  • This happens in Chicago too. I’m surprised that the pedestrians don’t look more annoyed in these clips though. I always glare at the drivers or give their trunk or hood a good pound with my fist. I see a lot of other pedestrians do this too — I once saw a woman in high heels kick the door of a cab that ran the red light and blocked her path. Once or twice my fist pounding has led to a shouting match, so I tend to refrain from any retaliation unless there are other pedestrians around.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Does anyone have experience w/ making a scene? Pounding with a fist on the hood of the car?


  • I usually just glower. A couple of times I have seen young men able to spit onto the windshield of the offender, so accurately that the driver flinches. That’s the most provacative maneuver I’ve ever seen. And they only make things worse for themselves if they try the windshiled wipers!

  • Mitch

    Please note: every shot in this montage is while the pedestrian has the right of way.

  • The driver’s should really exercise better judgement in crossing the intersections, in spite of the pressure from the cars behind them. As a pedestrian, I would just weave in and out of the cars (I don’t get upset too easily). As a motorist, I would just turn to another street because going straight would evidentially be fruitless. Sometimes I try to cross the intersection and another car cuts me off and screws me over, then I get stuck in the crosswalk. That scene with those people crossing the street and those cars just zipping by, that pisses me off.

    In response to Eric, I wouldn’t say NYC does absolutely nothing. In high volume traffic areas, like Times Square, traffic agents have to be wary of both traffic and the pedestrians since there’s so many of both. I know a cop stopped me from walking between 7th and Broadway on Times Square, where they shut down that crossover. My point I guess is that NYPD’s doing something and that I try to be a good driver. 🙂

  • Angus, thanks for that link; I missed the discussion when it happened. I like very much what Steve says there, though I myself have gone from occasionally tapping or kicking (neither from me has a chance of damaging sheet metal) the worst offending cars to not having any plans to do it again, after one incident got disgustingly personal. I just don’t have the nerves for it. In another thread here someone, a cyclist I think, reported getting a ticket and harsh physical treatment from a cop for his intentionally making contact with a vehicle (not even the cop’s vehicle). I can’t describe how much I don’t want to be in that situation. Being objectively in the right would only make it harder to endure. (I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t fated to start the civil rights movement or anything.)

    But unlike some of the pedestrians in this (awesome!!11) video, I always make eye contact with motorists who would rather I didn’t exist (and whose actions are oriented towards making that so). I give them my best, superior, dagger-eyed look and keep moving. In situations where it’s not possible get my crosswalk right of way back from a motorist, I’ll usually flail my arms in some way that I’m sure they find humorous. But at least they’re reminded I’m there, and they’re wrong.

  • Angus, I just read your link. That’s classic!

  • lee

    Does anyone have experience w/ making a scene? Pounding with a fist on the hood of the car?

    You mean like this?

  • Sam

    Wow, that’s pretty terrible.

  • mark

    I sure as hell let them know that they are in the wrong. Sometimes a nice tap on the hood with my umbrella, sometimes (if their windows are open) I will definitely ask them what exactly it is that they’re doing. You have to call these idiots on their actions, otherwise they will keep doing it forever. We know the police will never call them on it.

  • Mark

    I would love to see a refinement of the congestion-pricing technology that would simply automatically ticket any driver who goes into the crosswalk at a red light. That’s one of the beautiful things about CP — it sets a precedent for machine-enforced rules. In time, we might have more machines and better rules. Incidentally, I’m the Mark with a cap M, not that hothead above 😉

  • Mark

    Oops, I meant to say more rules and better machines.

  • Mark, Australia uses red light traffic cameras which take two photos; one as the light’s turning red and one shortly after so it can be judged whether a vehicle is travelling through the red light or just in the intersection. If a vehicle is found to have run the light, the registration plate in the photo is matched to the address of the vehicle and an infringement notice (and fine) sent out.

    Surely this could be adopted in New York to catch those entering the pedestrian crossing when the light is red.

  • Dan

    The worst offenders are the drivers that charge the intersection even if they don’t have a yellow. Even if I have the light I always flinch a little when a car comes barreling down the street and stops short. You kind of expect someone to stick their head out the window and yell “FIRST!”

  • This happens everywhere. I’ve lived in NYC, San Francisco, Chicago and LA and it’s actually a lot better in NYC because at least the right turn on red is not legal. Where that is allowed, it’s a nightmare fighting off dumbasses who have no clue that the pedestrian has the right of way.

  • rhubarbpie

    “Does anyone have experience w/ making a scene? Pounding with a fist on the hood of the car?”

    I wrote up an encounter I had with a crazy driver who ran after me in the fall after I slapped his car. (It’s someplace in the archives here.)

    In response, both of us were ticketed. I am happy to report that I went to court on Jan. 17 and was not fined — got an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal from a judge who said he understood my frustration though he did note that there are probably plenty of people bigger than me (I’m a small guy). I’m not planning on hitting any cars again anytime soon, though looking at this nicely done video I sure wish the law were enforced and an on-going education campaign would begin.

  • rhubarbpie

    One other note: as someone who drives sometimes in New York, I can tell you there is almost no advantage to sitting in the crosswalk and esp. in darting ahead of a pedestrian, particularly on busy Midtown streets. The street you’re turning into will almost always have a light against you a block away, so if you wait for the pedestrians you just will be waiting at a different spot and will likely be able to get a green light when you actually move again. Not sure how clear that is, but that is what I’ve found.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.


    An excellent point which always peeves me too. Maybe I’ll do a little PSA on that. After all, I still remember Batman & Robin telling me as a youngster , “cross at the green, not in between”. Although it you think about it, that message is a little misleading!

  • js

    I live in NY, I got blackmailed by a trooper because I just moved here and didn’t have a front tag. It is not required where I moved from…the trooper threatened to write me up for something else if I didn’t plead guilty….I don’t take threats well so, of course, I went to court.

    Since then, I notice nobody uses turn signals, people PARK in the road facing the wrong way, many have no emissions controls, missing headlights,taillights, missing rearview mirrors, talk on cell phones even though there is A LAW against it, crossings mean nothing, nor do stop signs, yellow lights…”turn only on green lights” signs…

    I have seen THREE people turn the wrong way ONTO the interstate AT ONLY ONE EXIT just last year…I have been hit in a parking lot by an older woman, who drove off….I caught her and the trooper came and let her off with a warning….I guess because she was older….therefore, rules are meaningless…Now an online poll shows New Yorkers are last of all the states in following driving rules….but I guess my missing front license plate was really a menace to society…

    I went to court. Our town justice fined me $160….the case before mine, the town judge fined two girls, most likely students, because the passenger gave the driver her id, they went out to eat and the passenger had a dress on….so the passenger had to give the driver her ID, duh!!!! however, they were fined….what business did the trooper have going through their purses and wallets…were they suspected of something????

    My neighbor is a trooper. In the summer, people pass by from the town pool with six kids per car with no seatbelts on…whom I have witnessed passing troopers, and there have been no tickets…..troopers and cops have their heads up their $@# and their priorities messed up and endanger us all……I am sick of the messed up priorities…everytime I use a CROSSING WALK, I almost get hit, and somebody slams on their brakes, and I have to look right in their vacant looking eyes and wonder what are they thinking!!!

    I will never ever assist any cop or trooper or any law enforcement for the rest of my life, knowing how useless, biased, and crooked our laws and justice system are in this country!!!!!!

    Yet, the South is SO backwards….ha…wake up…some young people make bad driving decisions endangering their own lives, but there is a lot of bias these days from troopers, insurance cos, etc……I hate driving and wish they would ban all cars everywhere… is miserable and getting worse every day…..if our country actually cared, they would provide public transit to actually get older folks off the road too…I am sure it is not enjoyable when they are going 20 on a county hwy and getting honked at for 20 miles and inconveniencing everybody…..and sometimes causing wrecks….

  • You are lucky that right turns on the red light are banned in New York city. Where I live, there are two possibilities when you are crossing with a green light:

    At busy intersections, the crosswalk is inevitably blocked by cars waiting to make a right turn.

    At little-used intersections, someone might barrel through the crosswalk at high speed, without even looking to see if a pedestrian is crossing, because he sees that no cars are coming and that he can turn right without coming to a full stop.

  • megs

    In regard to the turning into pedestrians issue: I usually stare down the driver and emphatically point to the crosswalk signal that indicates I should go. That way they absolutely know they’re in the wrong and don’t get away thinking I was some idiot pedestrian crossing on their turn signal.
    By the way, my first week of work on one job, I almost got hit this way within two days of a woman getting whacked at the same intersection, same scenario…she was left with brain damage.

  • That’s a good point rhubarbpie. I find it’s also important to keep the crosswalk that intersects your street clear too. (ie: turning left from E. 47th Street onto 7th Avenue). Since you have to wait for so many people crossing the street, and the street you turn into is jammed up to the crosswalk, it’s important to keep the crosswalk infront of the stop line for your light clear. In an area like Times Square, peds come in droves.

  • rhubarbpie

    I wonder if NY1 or some of the other stations would pick up a PSA about this…maybe the folks at the DOT could try to get it placed if they were interested, assuming (and I don’t know if that’s a correct assumption) that the stations would respond more favorably to a City of New York-sponsored PSA.

  • Josh

    There already are traffic light cameras at a number of intersections (I’ve seen them flashing on Canal Street, and I know my father has been ticketed by one on Northern Boulevard), but I guess not enough to make a difference.


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