Extreme Makeover: Roads Edition

Updated: Sep 1

Long Island's streets are getting an $11.3M makeover to improve pedestrian safety


It’s no secret that pedestrian safety is an issue that reaches far and wide across Long Island. 24 pedestrians were killed in crashes while 559 were injured last year in Nassau County. The 2020 death toll for pedestrians in Suffolk County was 31, with 350 injured.


New York State Governor Kathy Hochul inherited this ongoing issue from former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, and she’s addressing it by moving forward with $11.3M in pedestrian safety enhancements, originally proposed by the former administration.


Newsday reported that many improvements are already underway, and some are already complete. One $8.6M project will fund upgrades to the 90-mile stretch of Route 25, which runs from Orient Point to Queens. Another $2.7M project has already constructed 123 new ADA-compliant curb ramps in the Towns of Hempstead, Huntington, and Southampton. Overall, the projects have already added more than 250 curb ramps, 1,800 feet of upgraded or new sidewalks, and numerous new traffic signals and signs across the island.


Infrastructure is a key component to improving the pedestrian safety issues that continue to plague Long Island. Also known as engineering, infrastructure improvements like crosswalks and curb ramps are one of New York State’s “Three Es,” a three-pronged approach to making streets safer for pedestrians. In addition to engineering, the “Three Es” also include enforcement and education. There are many countermeasures such as infrastructure improvements, roadway designs, and devices that are proven to benefit pedestrians by making it safer to cross the road.


Road diets, for example, involve conversion of a four-lane undivided road to a three-lane undivided road made up of two through lanes and a center two-way-left-turn-lane. Reduction of lanes allows the roadway cross section to be reallocated for other uses, such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, transit stops, or parking. Road diets have been shown to reduce overall crash reduction, reduce rear-end and left-turn crashes, and allow pedestrians to cross the road more easily.


Pedestrian signals consist of the illuminated words WALK and DON'T WALK, or the illuminated symbols of a walking person and an upraised hand. Types of signals include leading pedestrian intervals (LPIs), exclusive pedestrian signals, accessible pedestrian signals, countdown timers, rectangular rapid flashing beacons, HAWK signals, crosswalks, and median refuges.


Leading Pedestrian Interval (LPI): These pedestrian traffic signals give pedestrians a WALK signal before motorists are allowed to proceed through the intersection. This improves safety by allowing pedestrians to begin crossing the street, increasing their visibility to vehicles attempting to turn across the crosswalk.


Exclusive Pedestrian Signal: Some signals have a phase that gives pedestrians enough time to complete crossing the street while vehicle traffic is stopped in all directions.


Accessible Pedestrian Signals: These devices communicate information about pedestrian signal timing in a non-visual format to assist sight and hearing impaired pedestrians.


Countdown Timers: These signals display the number of seconds left to finish crossing the street before the steady DON’T WALK or upraised hand is displayed. The countdown display begins at the start of the flashing upraised hand or DON’T WALK indication and ends at the termination of that interval. Pedestrians who are already in the road when the countdown begins should continue safely crossing the street. Pedestrians who have not stepped off the curb should not begin crossing the street until the next pedestrian cycle.


Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon: These devices are used to supplement pedestrian warning signs at unsignalized intersections or mid-block marked pedestrian crosswalks. They include flashing lights that alert motorists that pedestrians are using the crosswalk.


HAWK Signals: High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk Beacons are used to stop road traffic and allow pedestrians to cross the street. The signal is dark until activated by a pedestrian who wishes to cross.


Crosswalks: A crosswalk is a portion of the road that is designated for pedestrians to cross the street. All intersections are considered to represent crosswalks, even when there are no pavement markings. Raised crosswalks and those with visibility enhancements such as lighting and enhanced signage are preferable to unmarked crosswalks.


Median Refuge: Raised pavement between opposing lanes of traffic that allows pedestrians to cross half of the road at a time. Also known as pedestrian refuge islands, they are also known to reduce the risk of vehicle left-turn and head-on collisions at intersections.


Learn more about proven pedestrian safety countermeasures on the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration website.

New York State is taking numerous measures to tackle the issue of pedestrian and cyclist safety, all of which culminate in the New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan (PSAP). The plan emphasizes making streets safer by implementing the “Three Es—” engineering, enforcement, and education.


Walk Safe Long Island is part of the third “E,” education. Check the News page of our website for information about upcoming installments of our “Staying Safe on Our Streets” Virtual Workshop Series, which aims to educate our local communities about cyclist and pedestrian safety.

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