Pedestrian right-of-way in city crosswalks will soon be legally strengthened, following a unanimous City Council vote on Wednesday. The Council approved a bill sponsored by Public Advocate Letitia James, which extends the right-of-way window for the duration of the flashing red hand.
It has technically been less easy for drivers to hit pedestrians and get away with it since the Right-of-Way Law passed in August 2014, empowering NYPD officers to charge drivers who kill or injure pedestrians. But the law, underutilized to begin with—according to the DOT [PDF], it was applied in just over 1% of about 1,000 failure-to-yield cases between September and December of 2014—currently doesn't extend to pedestrians crossing during the flashing red, with or without an accompanying countdown. (That leaves a pretty narrow window of protection, considering the vast majority of crashes aren't the pedestrian's fault.)
Streetsblog, which has described the current state of affairs as "completely at odds with how people walk," pointed out last year that countdown clocks are prevalent on wider streets, to help pedestrians determine if they have enough time to make the crossing. In these spots, the countdown clock tends to take up "most" of the crossing window. This is true at the intersection of Atlantic and Vanderbilt Avenues in Brooklyn, where the road is wide enough to be separated by a median, and the countdown cycle is longer than the white "walk" cycle.
Mayor de Blasio still has to sign off on the legislation, which reportedly has NYPD and Department of Transportation endorsement.
For the more daring, here's our guide to "intelligent" jay walking.