DNAInfo: Pedestrians Have No Time to Cross Delancey

In the wake of the death of Dashane Santana, the 12-year-old girl killed by a minivan driver while she was crossing Delancey Street earlier this month, Lower East Side leaders are demanding safety improvements for the many pedestrians who cross this approach to the Williamsburg Bridge. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Borough President Scott Stringer, State Senator Dan Squadron and City Council Member Margaret Chin have each called on DOT to take action to prevent one more life from being taken by Delancey Street traffic.

A report from DNAinfo this morning lays out just how hostile the design of Delancey is to pedestrians. To cross Delancey at Clinton Street, where Santana was killed, pedestrians must traverse ten lanes of moving traffic in just 22 seconds.

That’s far less crossing time than pedestrians have at some of the city’s most notoriously dangerous intersections, which DNAinfo went out and measured. Reports DNAinfo’s Julie Shapiro:

For example, pedestrians crossing the eight-lane Queens Boulevard at Union Turnpike have a full 30 seconds to make it to the other side.

People traversing the six-lane Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 145th Street have 40 seconds, nearly double the crossing time on Delancey Street.

Other busy intersections with longer crossing times than Delancey Street include West Street at Albany Street, where pedestrians have 31 seconds to cross eight lanes; Houston Street at Essex Street, where pedestrians have 30 seconds to cross eight lanes; 12th Avenue at 23rd Street, where pedestrians have 34 seconds to cross six lanes; Ocean Parkway at Church Avenue in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 45 seconds to cross 10 lanes; and Atlantic and Flatbush avenues in Brooklyn, where pedestrians have 60 seconds to cross four lanes.

DNAinfo’s report also includes the above video, which includes an interview with one of Santana’s schoolmates.

The area’s elected officials are primarily calling for pedestrian crossing times to be extended, a move that would surely make it easier to cross. Shrinking Delancey down from ten lanes should also be on the table; no matter how long the light is, that’s a wide street to ever cross safely.

DOT will present its plan for improving Delancey Street next Wednesday.

  • Bolwerk

    It’s really quite frightening how people surrender their brains to traffic lights. Soon as the lights turn green, sociopaths in vehicles will cheerfully mow past whoever is still on the crosswalk.

    The Williamsburg Bridge should really be made one-way.

  • Joe R.

    10 lanes of traffic is approximately 110′. 22 seconds to go 110′ = 3.4 mph-a bit faster than the average walking speed of 3 mph but not ridiculously so. In any case, there are certain roads which are just too wide, with too much traffic, to have reasonable crossing intervals without backing up traffic for miles. I know for a fact Queens Blvd is one of those roads. Delancy is probably another given the traffic coming off the bridge. At least Queens Blvd. has the subway stations as a safe means to cross in many places (I use them all the time). Delancy might need a pedestrian overpass in that location. I know that’s a dirty word around here, but sometimes it’s the best solution all around if the alternate solution involves extending red lights to 45 or 60 seconds. When lights are too long and too frequent, people tend to drive way more aggressively, stepping on the gas the second the light changes, and speeding to keep from getting caught at subsequent lights. This creates an even more dangerous environment for people crossing.

    In the end though longer crossing intervals and/or pedestrian bridges are bandaids. What we really have here is a traffic volume problem. The long term solution is taking steps to reduce traffic to levels where 10 lanes aren’t needed, and where there are enough natural gaps in traffic to allow crossing without traffic signals. I’m not holding my breath that any of the current crop of city politicians will have the courage to do that.

  • Joe R.

    And on another note, any driver who mows down a girl picking up her bag deserves serious jail time. Putting aside crossing intervals and other issues, lack of consideration for people crossing is a major issue citiwide which needs to be fixed.

  • David

    Hi Joe
    > 3.4 mph-a bit faster than the average walking speed of 3 mph

    So more than 50% of the population dont walk fast enough to cross…

  • dporpentine


    So more than 50% of the population dont walk fast enough to cross…

    And if you’re not right at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to change, then it’s either run or die.

  • Joe R.


    The primary issue there is that traffic is so heavy the only time a person can even think of crossing is when the cars get the red. There are lots of other streets where technically the pedestrian crossing interval is too short, but even slow walkers have no problem crossing, because the traffic volume is low enough that they can start crossing before they get the green signal, and/or continue crossing after it turns red.

    And way more than 50% of the population is capable of walking at 3.4 mph, at least for the short amount of time they’re crossing the street. If the interval was short enough that you need to cross at 5 or 6 mph, then that’s a major problem. 5 feet per second is a pretty standard assumption for pedestrian traffic which usually matches reality (except in places with large numbers of elderly or disabled, neither of which is the case here).

  • Joe R.

    Thinking about this some more, why doesn’t the city start using some sort of pedestrian detector which extends the crossing interval if there are people already in the crosswalk? This is a way of having your cake and eating it too. You can have much shorter red light cycles, basically only long enough for motor traffic to get across, at times when nobody is crossing, such as late nights. When people are crossing, they can be assured that if they start crossing on a green signal, the light won’t change until the reach the other side. We really shouldn’t be using dumb, timed signals when the technology exists for alternatives which make life better for everyone.

  • 22 seconds seems to be well below federal standards. federal standards assume a walking speed of 3.5 feet per second, 3 if its a heavy senior area.

    10 lanes at 11 feet each = 110 feet.
    At 3.5 feet per second = 31.4 seconds = 32 seconds.
    At 3 feet per second = 36.6 seconds = 37 seconds

    Looks like a lawsuit by the family of the little girl against the city is in order

  • Anonymous

    I cross north on Clinton at Delancey every day on my bike ride home from work.  There aren’t a ton of options to cross north if you’re on a bike.  If you take Allen (which had an awesome bike lane), you’re tempting fate with the construction around Grand/Broome (and you have Chinatown busses and/or fast moving livery cars who will buzz you to gain an advantage and then stop at the red).  You can take Essex, but that is a shit show with all the cars turning left (east) from Essex on to the WillyB.  So, for me, Clinton is the safest, since, the approach has the least traffic, and heading East on Madison/East Broadyway is generally safe.

    I got to tell you, I barely make it across in time on my bike.  Part of the problem is the new pedestrian island.  It has really small opennings, so, if there are other people crossing, you have to negotiate with them, which eats up time.  

    Furthermore, the orange barrels, actually block the “cut-out” from the concrete, which is where bikes are supposed to ingress/egress if heading south from the WillyB (or heading North from Clinton).  So, I end up having to cross on the pedestrian part, which means going extra slow because I’m mingled with walkers.   It’s madness I tell yah!  And you see all these cars lined up, ready to go.  If the cars had human personalities, they’d be like a bunch of cheetahs ready to pounce or something.  I’m relatively young and fairly fit.  I can only imagine how hard it is for the many elderly who live in our neighborhood.

  • Joe R.

    I measured the crossing more accurately in Google Earth.  Turns out it’s 160′, not 110′. So 22 seconds is definitely way too short to get completely across-that requires walking at 5 mph. That’s closer to a jog than a walk for most people. The 22 second timing assumes a person will make it to the pedestrian island, then wait for the next light cycle. Obviously few people are willing to wait twice to cross a street.

    Using the high 3.5 feet per second number Jass gave, you would need a 46 second crossing interval to get across. This is probably too long given the heavy traffic flow. Not too many alternatives I’m seeing other than a pedestrian bridge, or just crossing a block down. Really, that intersection is urban design at its worst. Since it’s too wide to ever really cross safely, that part of the roadway should have been kept above grade, and then split into more manageable widths before coming down to street level, perhaps only bringing two lanes at a time down to street level to keep the width of the street reasonable. Like I said, really poor design.

  • David

    Also, to play devils advocate, we are all ignoring the median in the middle right. You could cross over 2 light cycles

  • fj

    Made a recommendation regarding a dangerous street to DoT that crossings have markings and yield to pedestrian signs just like the Hudson River Greenway.

    The person responsible got back to me quite quickly with the statement that it was not NYC DoT’s policy to have street crossing marking on non-regulated crossings i.e., without stop lights or 4-way stop signs. 
    He did not mention that it was NYC DoT policy to keep a dangerous street where people’s lives are at stake; one interpretation might be that this is implied.
    Seems a version of the Hippocratic Oath should be applied with regards to safety:  First do no harm.

  • Xxx

    145th & Frederick Douglas and all of FDB needs to be reevaluated.  Police station officers park their cars in the bus stop and all around the police station is unsafe crossing when officers leave their personal cars in the cross walks.

  • Anonymous

    In 2004 the Department of City Planning did a study on LES traffic.  In it they documented the expectation that crossing times were based on 2 cycles with a wait at the median in between.  Not sure what the precedent was for this decision.  It was called the Delancey Street Transportation Study and issued by the City Planning Transportation Division.

  • @Jamesboat:disqus  I’m not sure 31.4 rounds to 32.  Maybe I need to redo 3rd grade but who knows.  We could just use the three sig figs and say 31.4 and 36.6. Regardless the crossing times are absurd.

    @cf7ba48ab923c80f6370beb74def0e8f:disqus  Forcing pedestrians to cross in two light cycles is not acceptable.  No driver would accept the same treatment.  Marcia Kramer would be the scene to do some “investigative “journalism” ” in about 5 minutes.(I think that is proper amount of sarcasm quotes)

  • Ian Turner


    There are places in the city now where both drivers and pedestrians must cross in two light cycles. For drivers, this happens in Queens for those crossing Metropolitan Avenue from 60th St. to Forest Ave.; for pedestrians, crossing Flatbush Avenue at the southeastern corner of grand army plaza requires two light cycles. But I think everyone agrees that this outcome is, if not unacceptable, at least highly undesirable.


  • Jane Jacobs has blood on her hands- make do with the surface streets indeed!

  • Andrew

    @facebook-1325925834:disqus Shelly Silver has blood on his hands.

  • Rory80tate

    Go to Curitiba, Brazil, where there are very few pedestrian crossing signals at all.  You have to literally RUN for your life to cross a street.  …and they herald this place as one of the best transportation systems in Brazil.   Yeah, right… maybe for cars.  For pedestrians it’s extremely dangerous.


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