Saturday, February 19, 2011


Forty seven seconds to walk

You know how some intersections in some cities have digital count-downs, telling you how many seconds you have to cross before the walk signal changes to don’t walk? How do they come up with the times?

I just waited at a corner, and when the walk signal came on, the timer started at 47. Who decided that it should be 47 seconds, and not, say, 45, or 50? And why? Is there really any sense in which 47 seconds is enough, but 45 isn’t, and 50 is too long? Why should two or three seconds one way or another matter?

One wonders.


WM Irwin said...

Still, I like the "countdown" system, which seems to give the crosser more time (or is that just an illusion). It always annoys me when I'm just halfway across the street and the "Don't Walk" sign begins to flash. It reminds me of that scene in "Rain Man" when autistic Raymond is in the same situation and just stops dead in his tracks, eventually causing consternation among the surrounding drivers.

Barry Leiba said...

Oh, yes, I like it, too. I like to know how much time is left.

And for crossing streets, I’ll go with Dustin Hoffman’s other iconic street-crossing scene, from Midnight Cowboy. “I’m walkin’ here!”

The Ridger, FCD said...

Surely it doesn't have anything to do with how long it takes to cross the street. It's how long it will be before the light changes. And in a massive grid, three seconds at each light could really build up.

Ray said...

I'm fairly sure that number really ought to be 42, since we all know that is The Answer.