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Ask the Times: Shouldn't pedestrians get more time at street crossings?

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Q. Wouldn't it be a good idea if pedestrians could get extra time to cross busy streets before cars traveling their direction begin to make their right or left turns?

A. Yes it would, and the city of Little Rock has installed new firmware in its traffic control boxes at eight intersections to make that happen. At the intersections — on Broadway at Sixth, Fifth, Third and Second, on Louisiana at Fourth and Third, Cumberland at Third, and Rodney Parham and Markham — eastbound and westbound pedestrians get a green walking man sign five seconds before eastbound and westbound traffic gets a green light. That gives them a head start into the intersection and will make them more visible to drivers turning into the crosswalks. The light delays are for east and westbound traffic only.

Bill Henry, the city's traffic manager, said the city started making the changeover at various heavily trafficked intersections about a year ago when new controller firmware became available. Henry said it takes about a day to make the switch inside the intersection control boxes. The Downtown Partnership's traffic committee suggested the first intersection to get the light delay, at Sixth and Broadway. Henry said he himself saw an accident there in which a woman crossing Broadway was hit by a driver turning left from Sixth.

Henry said his office has gotten thank-you calls from pedestrians trying to cross Broadway at Second and Third, where county offices are located.

In general, the walking man is green "anywhere from four to seven seconds" depending on the intersection. He blinks red for another 15 seconds. Pedestrians should only leave the curb while the walking man is green, he said.

Downtown Little Rock used to have a "Denver Light" or "intersection shuffle" at lights downtown, which stopped traffic in all directions so pedestrians could cross. Henry said that would snarl traffic downtown to include such a delay.

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