NYPD Priorities in Action: Keep Traffic Moving, Pedestrians Be Damned

Yesterday we saw what it looks like when police value pedestrian safety and enforce the integrity of the crosswalk. That’s how they roll in Sacramento. Here in New York, the NYPD’s priorities are a little different.

Clarence Eckerson recently shot this clip at the intersection of Canal and Lafayette. As you can see, an officer crossing the street with other pedestrians noticed a vehicle blocking the box (and a bike lane). Instead of giving the driver a summons, he proceeded to hold up everyone who had the right of way and wave the car through the crosswalk, directly into the path of at least one person on foot. All in a day’s work for New York’s finest.

  • kvnbklyn

    Take a look at the intersection of Sixth and 34th. The cops stop the hundreds of pedestrians waiting to cross to let a few more cars go through after the light has turned red. This creates an unsafe condition for the pedestrians and reduces the amount of time they have to cross, exacerbating the already overcrowded sidewalks. All for a handful of dbags driving their cars down 34th street. And the taxes of the pedestrians pay for this.

  • Adam

    This is not a big deal. Look at the situation: The car was blocking the box, we don’t know why, as only one lane past the crosswalk was full. What likely happened was that the driver was being cautious, and numerous pedestrians took advantage when the driver stopped in reaction to the car in front stopping. The policeman recognized this, and helped the car clear the intersection. That is good policing. Note that we don’t see further traffic coming on either street and can’t see the signals. It’s likely then that the peds didn’t even have the light. The cop was polite to all, and kept people and traffic moving safely. Yes, that’s what our tax dollars go to.

  • Danny


    I’m gonna have to agree with the cop on this one.

  • As most know, a cop directing traffic at a signaled intersection legally supercedes the signal. Here’s the problem with that in terms of what actually happens in NYC, by my observations:

    Signals at signaled intersections provide guidance to TWO separate sets of road users, using TWO interconnected sets of signals: colored lights for cars; walk/don’t walk signs for peds.

    When there’s a cop directing traffic at a particular intersection (and often, even when there are several), it seems they ONLY concern themselves formally with the cars, and not the peds. If the city cared, they would have cops completely replace all the signalling that the intersection normally does, but they don’t. They only guide the cars. The peds are kind of left to their own devices, or perhaps by default follow the same signals the cop is giving to cars. Which is NOT how such intersections are designed to work.

    No matter what the hell they do to fix this, the practice depicted in the film–of sending cars right into groups of peds (which is often complained about outside of streetsblog) is totally outrageous.

  • paco

    the cop should have first let all the people clear, then pushed the car through (and ticketed him for blocking the box). nonetheless he was right for trying to clear the intersection cause even one car blocking perpendicular traffic messes up the flow of people crossing, cars moving, etc etc. bigger picture… when they stick a cop at an intersection to direct traffic, why don’t they shut off the traffic signal too. otherwise, half the cars just honk obnoxiously cause they can’t see the cop in the middle and he or she can do little to calm everyone’s anxious led foot. I don’t mind TEA agents, so long as they have real control and are properly moving people safely, then thinking about the cars afterward.

  • What paco said.

  • You can tell the pedestrians had the walk signal, because at the end of the video, the field of view zooms out, and there are no peds in the perpendicular lanes.

    Regardless, if he’s transit police the cop should have ticketed the box-blocker; and, if he’s not transit police, he still shouldn’t have told a man to drive into pedestrian traffic.

    Cops are pigs, this is a great video, I’ve linked it to all my friends.

  • ms nomer

    I agree with Adam and Paco. Cop was right to clear the intersection and did let several peds through before stopping them for the car – though yes he should have followed up with a ticket for the driver.

  • Adam and ms nomer: Does it change your opinion if I say that is a ticketable offense to go through an intersection, when even if you have the light, you cannot clear the intersection? Cars are supposed to wait at the stopline until the lane ahead is clear. This cop should have seen this car through the intersection and then given the driver a ticket. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

  • The Anti-Troll

    When it comes down to it, this behavior can be magnified thousands of times per day in NYC. Think of all the $$$ revenue and behavioral modifications that we lose everytime you see this. That cop should have given him/her a ticket.

  • Now if I confront of an officer one day and ask him why he’s doing this-would I get ticketed?

  • Clutch J

    The cop did OK here, except he should have been more careful regarding the person walking towards him from the opposite sidewalk. Had the car hit that pedestrian, the driver might reasonably have claimed that he had been given priority by the police officer, walk signal be damned.

  • > Now if I confront of an officer one day and ask him why he’s doing this-would I get ticketed?

    No, he’ll tell you to keep moving, citizen. And if you ask him for to see his badge, he’ll tell you he’ll be happy to identify himself, if you’ll give him your ID.

    And when you give him yours, he’ll tell you to come downtown with him, so that he can confirm your ID. The cuffs will go on and you’ll go in the cruiser. After you’re downtown and your day’s been ruined, you’ll be held in a cell with actual criminals for a while, and eventually released, no questions asked.

    This has happened to two of my friends, and is why I DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

  • clever-title

    Yes, the cop should have ticketed the driver, but if he had left the intersection to do so, he could have come back to even worse gridlock.

  • Since I shot the video and actually saw what happened before/after, I’ll say a few things. First, there was almost no traffic at that time of day (well at least for 2 PM on Canal) and the driver had no cars coming at him/her. Two, that cop just happened to be walking thru and did that, then proceeded on his way, so he wasn’t a traffic cop.

    I will say this was hardly egregious as I – and all of us – have seen alot worse. But it all plays into the mentality of cars first in this city. I just happened to shoot this and got home and read the streetsblog article on Sacremento. Since so many people were commenting on that, felt maybe it would be interesting if we got this up to confirm some things people were mentioning.

  • clever-title

    OK then, if there wasn’t a need for someone to stay in the intersection to keep pedestrian and vehicular traffic moving, then there’s really little excuse for a cop to help the driver after blocking the box, rather than directing him to the side and writing a ticket.


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