Getting oriented in an unfamiliar neighborhood can sometimes be daunting, even for seasoned New Yorkers. So in an effort to curb the confusion and encourage more confident pedestrians, the Department of Transportation has unveiled a new sidewalk "wayfinding" sign system that offers comprehensive maps and street navigation info.

The first wave of these new signs can already be seen around Chinatown, with the next wave to appear in August in Prospect Heights and Crown Heights in Brooklyn, Midtown in Manhattan, and Long Island City in Queens. A total of 100 signs are set to be in place by next summer.

Standing at about 81/2 feet tall and stretching between 18-50 inches wide, these black and grey signs are freestanding structures installed directly into the sidewalk on select street corners. Each map shows pedestrians where they are in relation to the surrounding streets, as well as the walking distance to—and location of—nearby bike lanes, subway stations, cultural institutions, and other neighborhoods. With 31% of all trips in New York City made by foot, the idea is for pedestrians to feel more comfortable walking around, which could perhaps lead to more money spent in local stores.

In preparation for the sign launch, the DOT conducted a series of surveys around the city and found that 33% of locals could not indicate which direction was North. "We also found that ten percent of New Yorkers surveyed were lost," said Jeanette Sadik-Kahn, NYC's Transportation Commissioner. As a result the new maps guide pedestrians in the direction they are already facing, eliminating any need for a compass.

Additional "wayfinding" signs will eventually be added to Citi Bike stations around town, and specially designed signs will be installed along Select Bus Service routes. The DOT is also in negotiations with the MTA over the installation of signs inside subway stations.