2006_11_countdown.jpgYesterday the Department of Transportation installed the first countdown pedestrian signal at the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Kings Highway. Here's how the city explains the timer:

The pedestrian countdown signals are the same size as the existing pedestrian signal head, but feature a dual display - the traditional "Walking Man" and "Hand" display, and a pedestrian interval countdown display. The countdown feature is programmed to start at the beginning of the "flashing hand" cycle and end when the flashing hand becomes steady. At the five test intersections pedestrians will be given a minimum 15-second countdown before the light changes.

The city hopes people will see the timer and stay on the curb when the countdown is nearing zero. But will they? The NY Times has varying reactions to the timers - some say they'll underestimate their times. Even DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall was skeptical and only okayed the program at the Mayor's insistence. Countdown timers have been in San Francisco since 2001, and the NY Sun says that "a reduction in pedestrian collisions and an increase in compliance with the signals" have been seen in studies there.

The six-month pilot program was announced six months ago. The other test locations will be:
- In Staten Island at Hylan Boulevard & New Dorp Lane
- In Queens at Hillside Avenue & 179th Place
- In Manhattan at Avenue of the Americas & West 8th Street
- In the Bronx at Southern Boulevard & East 149th Street