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LPI – Leading Pedestrian Interval

Leading Pedestrian Intervals (or LPIs) are a traffic signalization strategy that assigns pedestrians an exclusive 3 to 5 second signal (in some cases much longer) to begin crossing the street before cars get a green light. Consequently, they are also known by their sassier nickname, Pedestrian Head Start. But in my view the best variation on what LPI stands for comes from Christine Berthet of the Hells Kitchen Neighborhood Association who proposes: "Life Preserving Interval". That's what it is.

Transportation Alternatives has recently begun a push to make these more common in NYC. Here's hoping our video (featuring some nice visuals from TOPP's own Carly Clark) can help aid the case and explain what this arcane phrase means.


[intro music]

Shin-Pei Tsay: [00:09] An LPI is a Leading Pedestrian Interval. What it does is it gives the pedestrian a head-start in front of the cars. The cars will be waiting at a red light and the pedestrian gets a walk sign and they’re able to enter the crosswalk, and then the cars get the green light. So the pedestrians at that point are well established in the crosswalk. That’s why it’s also known as a Pedestrian Head Start or Delayed Vehicle Green.


Christine Berthet: [00:34] I cannot think of anything more important than LPI’s in our community. It gives you protection from turning cars. And the most dangerous is when they are turning and they are coming in your back, so you are not seeing them. And in fact they are kind of not seeing you because they are arriving very quickly.


Shin-Pei Tsay: [00:54] LPI’s are generally three to five seconds long, but sometimes they can be as long as ten seconds or even more. The number one cause of pedestrian fatalities occur when a car strikes a pedestrian crossing in the crosswalk. And two-thirds of pedestrians conflicts happen when the pedestrian is actually crossing with the light.


Martin Treat: [01:15] Now you notice the traffic is completely stopped as the walk sign goes on, so the pedestrians start first as the traffic stays still, like this lady crossing here. And they won’t move for a whole 17 seconds, and people have enough time to cross exclusively and not worry about turning traffic, especially coming off in a neighbourhood like this from the Lincoln Tunnel where we get volumes of trucks and buses.


Eric Muise: [01:40] The cars and trucks coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel would actually conflict with us and not even stop when we would cross. So it took a petition that was circulated across the different buildings at this intersection and asking the DOT to come and fix this problem.


Speaker: [01:59] We’ve had problems crossing 34th Street ever since I can remember. Having the lights changed here has been great. I mean now, you know, you see the traffic waiting for you to cross and we cross much more confidence and much more peace of mind.


Christine Berthet: [02:12] What I call a LPI is the Life Preserving Interval. An interval in time which is given to you to save your life, because that’s a space where you can walk and you have like your guardian angel protecting you.


Shin-Pei Tsay: [02:27] We think that they should be the standard at any major intersection where there’s a lot of turning vehicles, especially wide ones where there’s a high pedestrian volume. They’re very cheap to put in place, especially at signalised intersections, it’s just a matter of retiming. So it’s an easy, cheap solution to making intersections safer for pedestrians.


Christine Berthet: [02:48] Also in French, call that [speaking French], which is the lone space of time where it doesn’t belong to anyone except to you.

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/LevinN LevinN

    I've heard that Denver, CO has a more extreme version of the "Leading Pedestrian Interval". The timing of some of the signal lights has 3 phases. In one phase, vehicles on one street have the right-of-way. In the second phase, vehicles on the other street have the right-of-way. In the third phase, pedestrians own the whole intersection, so they can cross either street, or both at once diagonally. Pedestrians don't just get a head start--they get a car-free intersection with enough time to cross completely in any direction.

    A few years ago, downtown Seattle WA would sometimes develop gridlock, when there were so many pedestrians in crosswalks that vehicles could never turn right or left, over many signal-light cycles. Eventually the car drivers would get impatient, and nudge their way through the fully occupied crosswalks. The Denver idea would solve this problem, I don't know whether or not Seattle has implemented it yet.

  • Dr. Errol C. Noel

    An excellent solution that could reduce pedestrian-vehicle conflicts and crashed at crosswalks! But, we have to be careful about improper implementation. We need a standard for application. This will help the engineers in conducting the appropriate study to confirm need for and the duration of a lead ped interval. In the context of other solutions, we must be able to confirm when LPI is the best option on a case by case basis. Application to all intersections, including all those with substantial pedestrian traffic, is NOT RECOMMENDED. Opportunity for MUTCD consideration!

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  • Anonymous

    This is a great idea that someone noted in the comments of this blogpost: http://blog.timesunion.com/gettingthere/walking-can-be-dangerous-to-your-health/2044/

  • Anonymous
  • Guest

    These sound like great ideas, love the UK style street markings. Now how do we stop Pedestrians from crossing the street when there isn't enough time on the "walk countdown?" Pedestrians cause gridlock too by taking up time at an intersection that was meant for cars turning etc, by crossing when there is 1 second left on the countdown. This needs to be addressed also.

  • Murray Henman

    We have at least one of these in Brisbane, Australia (corner of Adelaide and Edward Streets). I haven't heard anyone suggest getting rid of it, so come and take a look.