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Ignizio Bill Would Turn Pedestrian Timers Into Countdown Clocks for Drivers

1:20 PM EDT on March 13, 2014

City Council Member Vincent Ignizio has another red light camera bill -- one that seems to be a variation on a failed bill from six years ago.

Council Member Vincent Ignizio says NYC owes speeding drivers a chance to get away with endangering lives. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131211/tottenville/councilman-ignizio-elected-city-council-minority-leader##DNAinfo##
Vincent Ignizio wants the city to prioritize pedestrian countdown clocks at intersections with red light cameras. In 2008 he tried to get signal timers for drivers at the same locations. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131211/tottenville/councilman-ignizio-elected-city-council-minority-leader##DNAinfo##
Council Member Vincent Ignizio says NYC owes speeding drivers a chance to get away with endangering lives. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131211/tottenville/councilman-ignizio-elected-city-council-minority-leader##DNAinfo##

In addition to a bill that would require DOT to post warning signs where red light cameras are stationed, Ignizio last month introduced legislation that would mandate pedestrian countdown signals at those same intersections.

We'll get to that second bill in a moment, but first some background. As we reported in February, Ignizio is known for opposing measures to make streets safer and improve transit. He wanted to subject NYC bike lanes to environmental review, and succeeded in erasing the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard, watering down Select Bus Service on Hylan Boulevard to preserve parking, and degrading SBS service citywide by getting the MTA to shut off the flashing blue lights on all SBS buses.

Ignizio premised his pedestrian countdown bill on street safety. Here's an excerpt from an Advance story that mentioned the bill:

The pedestrian countdowns have been shown to decrease crashes at intersections, and those with red light cameras have already been identified as high-risk spots.

"We're deploying countdown clocks throughout the city, all I'm saying is deploy them in areas where you have red light cameras first," Ignizio said.

A couple of things about this proposal don't make sense. One, Ignizio is not a fan of automated traffic enforcement. In that same Advance story, he said of red light cameras, "These 'safety devices' -- in quotes -- sometimes are causing more accidents than they're trying to avoid." In fact, NYC's red light camera program has led to a significant drop in dangerous T-bone crashes -- and if Ignizio thinks cameras are causing crashes, how would pedestrian countdown signals help?

Second, DOT already installs countdown clocks based on specific safety criteria. The signals are effective at certain types of intersections, and this bill would sever the link between the safety rationale and where they are installed. It could also mean fewer clocks to go around where DOT already wants to put them. How would that serve the interest of pedestrian safety?

Given Ignizio's track record of putting the interests of motorists above those of other street users, one Streetsblog reader smells a rat. "The countdown signals are commonly used by turning drivers to estimate how much time they have to clear an intersection before the light changes," wrote Aunt Bike. "Nothing encourages safer driving than a motorist anxiously watching the clock rather than looking out for people in the crosswalk, IMHO."

This skepticism is not unfounded. Ignizio introduced legislation in 2008 to require timers at all intersections with red light cameras, so drivers would know when a light was about to change from green to yellow.

We've asked Ignizio's office what prompted this bill. In the meantime, we can't help wondering what he will think of next. Requiring cops looking out for speeding drivers to post "Warning: Speed Trap Ahead" signs? Mandatory crosswalk flags? Leave your guesses in the comments.

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