Eyes on the Street: Crossing Guard Clamps Down on Crosswalk-Nudgers

This vid from BicyclesOnly shows a school crossing guard, at Madison Ave. and 96th St., who takes her job seriously. Whenever the light on Madison turned green, BO writes, she entered the intersection to assert the rights of those passing through on foot. Good thing, too.

Every single time there were motorists that clearly intended to "nudge"
their way through the crosswalk without yielding to pedestrians, but
for her forceful, professional intervention. It’s pretty remarkable how
routinely motorists fail to yield, and what it takes to make them do

The police department traffic officers posted at midtown and downtown
intersections seem to have a different mission entirely — moving the
vehicular traffic as quickly as possible, rather than making sure that
the motor vehicles interact safely and lawfully with the pedestrians.

This reminds me of an incident last weekend, when I heard a Times Square traffic cop mutter to a crosswalk-encroaching cabbie: "You’re a cab driver. Assert yourself."

What if every TEA acted like this crossing guard instead?

  • S Greenberg

    Indeed, what if they did. The crossing guard at Pacific and Third Avenues in Brooklyn regularly waves on cars turning from Third to Pacific while all the schoolchildren are trying to cross, or, at best, makes the kids wait for the cars.

  • Car Free Nation

    Now that’s surprising, since my experience with the crossing guards has only been negative.

    There’s the lazy one on Bergren and Nevins in Brooklyn, who when asked to actually help my three year old (on a bike) and me cross the street (with the light, but with turning cars threatening to enter the crosswalk), indicated that it wasn’t her job. Nor is it her job to clear a way for pedestrians when cars encroach on the crosswalk. As far as I can tell, her only responsibility is to stand there and chat with her friends, and in the rare case of an elementary school child crossing on his own, gesture that it’s an ok time.

    Is there any place to report these people?

  • This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. Our crossing guard at Hoyt and Pacific doesn’t do her job either. The principal has talked to her numerous times but isn’t actually her boss. Cars just make the left turn onto Hoyt when me and my kids have the light ALL THE TIME with her standing looking at us like she doesn’t understand the problem.

    I think we could really make a difference if we held these folks accountable and worked with the police to do training. Anyone in? Sounds to me like the commenters all use the same neighborhood.

    BTW – there shouldn’t be a crossing guard at Bergen and Nevins. Could you mean the woman on Dean and Nevins?

  • Car Free Nation

    It is Dean and Nevins (sorry), and she’s horrible. My guess is that the job description entails only helping kids who are by themselves, but in reality, every pedestrian could use some help crossing the street during rush hour.

    Since she’s just standing there taking up valuable sidewalk space, we’d be better off without anyone there.

  • TKO

    Good job!

    Hope she also stops those cyclists who either go through lights or stop mid cross walk too.

  • John Kaehny

    Some guards don’t do anything because they’ve been hit by turning cars. According to their union reps it happens all the time. My neighborhood guard on 110th and Broadway used to be very assertive. Then she got knocked down by a van. Just bruises, but enough to make her wary instead of bold. If you look at news archives, you’ll see that a number of NYC crossing guards have been killed and seriously hurt. There was a move afoot to make hitting crossing guards a serious felony — like assaulting NYC Transit crews — but I forgot what happened.

  • This particular person is a paragon. She has a partner who works the other side of the intersection who pretty much remains stationary near the corner giving hand signals. I don’t doubt that what John says about them getting hit is correct, although I think this guard reduces her collision risk by being so pro-active, moving up close to the motorists and making eye contact.

  • John Kaehny

    I’ve got school age kids and I count on crossing guards. They should do their jobs, and get the training, support and supervision from the NYPD to it properly. But keep in mind these are not particularly well paying jobs. And, in many locations, the crossing guards are being asked to stand in traffic and face very aggressive motorists — and do it everyday.

  • Leigh Ann

    Unfortunately, being a crossing guard has become one of the more dangerous occupations in municipal government. The position has limited work hours at inconvenient times of the day, guards are exposed to varying weather conditions, driver inattention and disrespect. In short, the job is high-risk with low-pay.

    That’s not to excuse any crossing guard from doing his or her duty, but I can understand crossing guards weary of being more assertive.

    I have also heard from a few crossing guards that they are told not to cross parents or other pedestrians, only students. I don’t know if it’s because of a liability issue or some other reason. There is no national uniform training or performance guidelines. Most states and counties do not have uniform training guidelines either. Kim, count me in on working on training.

    With all the challenges crossing guards face, it is important that we let them know how much we appreciate all that they do to keep children safe on their way to and from school. Holding a crossing guard appreciation events can go a long way in providing the recognition and respect they deserve.

  • Hey I got an idea; let’s put LPIs at intersections, instead of paid public servants. If we didn’t give both motorists and pedestrians conflicting greens and create a race condition at every single intersection in the whole city, then this problem wouldn’t exist!

    I’m astounded by faith in public ‘servants’ exhibited by the Streetsblog commentariat, given the quantity of reasonable rage derived from the litany of observations of those servants acting counterproductively.

  • Kaja,

    LPI’s at every intersection would be nice, but motorists would oppose it tooth and nail, because it would materially slow traffic down to a crawl–much or all of the turning traffic at busy intersections would have an opportunity to turn during the abbreviated green cycle.

    So instead we pay crossing guards $10-$13/hr (plus benefits) to civilize the motorists and make them yield to pedestrians with right of way in the crosswalk. Yet it still doesn’t work, unless the crossing guard gets in the face of the motorist and risks getting hit.

    As long as the current system rests on use of live crossing guards near schools, there is nothing “astounding” about trying to make that system work as effectively as possible, as opposed to taking up the quixotic task of installing LPIs at every intersection. It certainly makes sense to me, as a parent.

  • Kaja’s right both times. Crossing guards’ job is to help children crossing the street, not to control traffic. It’s a classic example of ignoring the bull in the china shop, as Copenhagenize puts it. Streetsblog readers already know how to solve this problem, and it’s not by hiring lots of part-time workers.

    BicyclesOnly, I think the better use of the term ‘quixotic’ would be to describe an effort to get low-paid civil servants with minimal supervision to undertake exhausting work confronting angry humans in two-ton wheeled metal exoskeletons.

  • PaulCJr

    I love this! I wish we had this in the East Village. I don’t know how many times a week a crosswalk nudging car almost takes me out as I legally cross the intersections.

  • JK

    Hey — here’s a novel idea, it’s called Safe Routes to Schools. New York City used to be the pioneer. Now it’s hugely popular nationally and practically invisible here. Curb extensions, raised crosswalks and other traffic calming devices actually work. Parents and politicians like Safe Routes to School. How about we see it revived?

  • JK – I couldn’t agree with you more. Livable Streets Education is working on it with parents, teachers and students. School Zone redesign, speed limiting and education! SR2S in New York is key.

  • SR2S is a great concept, but as traditionally implemented–curb extensions, raised crosswalks and other traffic calming devices–it does not really address the key problem of parents dropping off their kids in disorganized, dangerous, irresponsible ways. This is clearly illustrated on West 77th Street, where speed humps, a bike lane and a 15 mph zone around the school do nothing to address the danger created by the parents themselves. I think the answer may be closing the streets that have school entrances school entrances on them during pick up and drop off, so that cars are kept away when there are large numbers of people walking around. Some schools close the streets at lunch time, why not at arrival and at pick-up? This will also encourage parents not to drive their kids to school.

  • Ayush

    You can have a look to it. While I saw that http://printablecalendarz.com/ they have also published the same thing which we were discing out. Is it true ?



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