Wiki Wednesday: Daylighting, AKA the Pedestrian Peek-A-Boo

Robin Urban Smith’s "Daylighting" Streetfilm is on the fast track to blockbuster status, with more than 2,500 views since Monday. She follows up with a StreetsWiki entry about this simple, effective safety measure:


Visibility and eye contact are essential to avoiding conflict at a
crossing, but visual communication between different street users is
greatly impaired when parked cars crowd an intersection (see diagrams

Daylighting clears away this visual obstacle and improves
safety, especially for children, who have difficulty seeing and being
seen at intersections. Daylighting also shortens the crossing distance
at intersections, which reduces pedestrians’ exposure to traffic. For
seniors and other street users with longer crossing times, this is
particularly important.

This strikes me as a good opportunity to put StreetsWiki’s collaborative power to use. When Robin posted the film, we heard from readers about variations on daylighting — in the UK and in Queens. It would be great to work that information into this entry and start building a portfolio showing how different cities have implemented the technique.

In related news, on top of Clarence’s preferred term, "Pedestrian Peek-a-Boo," we now have a bunch of alternate names for daylighting, including: pedestrian 20/20, exposed crosswalk, curb-sighting, wide-angling, and ped surprise. Got a favorite yet?

  • Now, I obviously love this concept but have one question: How does daylighting reduce the crossing distance at intersections? It would seem that if a ped is partially shielded by a parked car, they can be in the street and crosswalk before they are in the danger area. The parked car actually makes the crossing shorter. Admittedly, I’m only looking at the above picture and haven’t watched the vid yet, so I may be missing a detail. Shorter crossing distances by removing cars? Not without a bulb-out, right?

  • Ah, I see after watching the vid. Gotta have a bulb-out or something similar to actually reduce the crossing distance at all. I feel smarter now. 🙂

  • Okay, as I wrote on Monday, we were thinking about removing cars from around the corner. Would everyone consider that to be “daylighting” as well? I don’t think it counts as “pedestrian peekaboo,” because that parking isn’t hiding the pedestrians. Either way, I think it should be clarified.

    Does anyone know who invented the concept and when?

  • One of the problems of taking away the car at the corner is that cars often will take the corner more smoothly – like a highway off ramp. The more smooth the turn, the less need to slow down. I see this all the time…cars will occupy and utilize all the space alloted to them. If you deny it from parking, people will turn it into a speedway or a way to get around other cars in their way. The ideal is to make a car either stop or take a turn at a near 90 degree angle forcing them to slow down to 5-10 mph. A bulb-out would be better than daylightling IMHO.

  • Yeah the reduced crossing distance isn’t shown in the graphic there but in the video the same graphic “grew” a bulb out in place of the parking space after the car faded away. And then they showed either bicycle parking or greenery in that space. That is what the quote is referring to.

  • Glenn

    Taking away the parking spot on the corner with signage is an intermediate step before a bulb out can be constructed or approved. I think it overall makes a slight net improvement and is very cheap to apply to any intersection. I defiantly agree that it could increase turning speeds by increasing the turning area. If the idea is to first take away the parking and then add the bulb out that seems optimal.

  • Just a brief point of information: I clipped Robin’s original graphic, which includes a third frame depicting bulb-outs and amenities, in order to economize vertical space.

  • I applaud the way this video helped communicate the benefits of this treatment. But “pedestrian peek-a-boo”? I really don’t think we should be providing any fodder for teasing to skeptics. I’m still working at trying to get engineers in the midwest to stop calling them “parking pregnancies”…

  • Larry Littlefield

    “A bulb-out would be better than daylightling IMHO.”

    Better still would be using the last space for bicycle parking on a bulb out.

    Bicycles are lower than motor vehicles, and opaque, and so would not obstruct the view of motor vehicles to the same extent. The last space on 10th Avenue at Windsor Place was made no parking after a series of motor vehicle crashes for that reason. That is over and above the benefit of having pedestrians more visible with less distance to cross.

    Perhaps one space could be removed rather than two.

  • How about “Liveable Crosswalks”?

  • The planning and design lexicon often associates daylighting with creeks and streams, as in bringing those small bodies of water back to the surface, typically out of pipes. I don’t have a great alternative at this point, but I agree that an alternate term is needed. Also to the point about motorist speed, its hard to say if removing the parking space without the simultaneously adding the bulb-out is net benefit. Indeed, it effectively increases the turn radius for automobiles. If the space is to be removed, a cheap interim solution may be to add anchored hard plastic bollards so that the site line remains, but the motorists also behave.

  • I’ll add a few comments here: first, I have been directly emailed a few ideas, one of which was “open curbs” which I will leave to debate on here.

    As to whether or not removing the park increases turning speeds, I have no studies to cite, but will say that in most places daylighting would be used would be streets that have Stop signs. Yes, what you would do is first remove the parking, then in the future when funds and community consensus are available then you fill in with bulb outs, plants, benches, bike parking, etc…. remember some the biggest successes are incremental stages – if ye all recall – on some streets we first had bike lanes, then buffered bike lanes, and now some places are getting physically separated lanes… It takes time, I wish it didn’t, but to win people over increments are sometimes the best way to go.

    TIM: As to my suggestion of “Pedestrian Peek-A-Boo” – I’ll admit it is a stretch and a little silly, but the idea of Streetfilms is also to entertain while educating and enlightening and that is what we do better than anyone else in the Transportation Universe. I know of at least five websites where our Daylighting video is up and running there are over 50+ comments, most with suggestions for a term to use. The dialogue is up and running and to me that is a big success.

  • Indeed, cheers for your good work and the dialogue Clarence. I find your point about the bicycle facility intensification very interesting. This is what we call the ‘succesional city.’ That is, as use and intensity grows it is replaced with something better. On the larger scale, and historically, cities always grew that way…until we froze many of them in time with bad suburban codes ad infinitum. Regardless, the incremental thought process is a good one, and at the micro-scale–bicycle lanes and ped-improvement–its makes great sense. This is especially true when doing “experimental” things like Gansevoort Plaza. In the successional city, Gansevoort will one day be a much more permanent public realm amenity.

  • I used this video to help explain why we need wonky people working in transportation planning:

  • Susan,

    That’s why we make the videos. Everyone should use them as much as possible!! Spread the word! Thank you.

  • BBnet3000

    This is also why placement of Citibike stations and bike corrals near corners is ideal.


Streetfilms: Introducing the Pedestrian Peek-a-Boo

This excellent Streetfilm from Robin Urban Smith and Clarence Eckerson is another in a series of vids on cheap and effective streetscape alterations that improve safety for all users. Writes Robin:  Daylighting is a simple pedestrian safety measure achieved by removing parking spaces adjacent to curbs around an intersection, increasing visibility for pedestrians and drivers […]

Rodriguez Bill Would Mandate Daylighting at 25 Intersections Per Year

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez introduced legislation today intended to improve pedestrian safety along bus routes and at intersections with high crash rates. Intro 912 would require DOT to daylight the five “most dangerous intersections” in each borough annually, as determined by the number of fatalities and injuries. Curb extensions would be installed to […]

DOT to Daylight All Left Turns on Lexington Avenue in Midtown

In last year’s landmark pedestrian safety study, the Department of Transportation found that three times as many crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve left turns as right turns. To respond to the heightened danger of left-turning vehicles, DOT promised in its action plan to “daylight” all left turns on a major Manhattan avenue, […]

This Week: Francisco Moya’s 111th Street Town Hall

There’s a lot of weighty stuff on the calendar this week, including presentations and public meetings on street improvements in Upper Manhattan, on the Upper East Side, and on 111th Street in Corona. Plus the City Council transportation committee will have a hearing on proposed legislation concerning bus safety and daylighting intersections. Highlights below. Check the calendar for complete […]