Crossing The Upper East Side

Assisted Pedestrian Signal at an intersection in Germany
Assisted Pedestrian Signal at an intersection in Germany.

As a resident of New York’s Upper East Side, I was very surprised to read Monday’s article on about local opposition to the installation of audible signals for the blind at Upper East Side street corners. While the article, also on Gothamist, pushes unflattering local stereotypes about my neighborhood, and the New York Post’s article is littered with awful puns, the more relevant discussion is why anyone here on the Upper East Side would be bothered about noise at traffic intersections.

“This is the worst proposal I’ve ever heard of for a neighborhood that doesn’t need it.”

“I’ve never once seen a blind person cross the street by themselves. These people are assisted because we are a neighborhood.”

“There is no indication there are that many incapacitated people using the intersections that were noted.”

Assisted? Incapacitated? Let’s see, every blind person needs to be assisted in my neighborhood, because they are incapacitated, which in the New Oxford American Dictionary means “deprived of strength or power.” Therefore, audible pedestrian signals are not needed in my neighborhood where traffic honks and screams through Madison, Park, Lexington, Third and Second on a daily basis — not to mention 59th, 68th, 72nd, 79th, 86th and 96th Streets. Ironically, that is where several of the audible signal locations have been proposed.

My favorite Blind Film Critic, Tommy Edison, posted the video below last year documenting his experience crossing a NYC intersection, presumably to show how incapacitated he is (if we are to take the proposal opponents’ statements at their word). He’s a funny guy, but this video is deadly serious.

According to the article referenced above, there are 48 documented intersections with audible signals in New York City.

In Toronto, there are 518 intersections equipped with audible signals. Also called accessible pedestrian signals, or APS, they are also on practically every street corner in Sydney and Melbourne. And Stockholm, Sweden too. And other cities.

On a daily basis, I typically see at least two blind pedestrians walking NYC’s streets and subway platforms — including the Upper East Side. They don’t need “to be assisted because we are a neighborhood,” but it would be nice if they could cross the street without worrying about traffic.

My response to the opponents of the APS proposal: Who cares? Put the audible signals up already.

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