Of Crosswalk Countdowns and Missing Bricks

I like the countdown crosswalks that have bing springing up all over big cities these days. Very handy for knowing how long you have to cross so you don’t have to do that herky jerky “Should I go? Will it turn yellow?” dance. However, I have noticed that the countdown lights in Washington DC often start at what seem to be random numbers. Sometimes they start at 60 or 30, but more often than not I see them start at 17 or 42.

What gives? Did the crosswalk countdown programmer get bored setting hundreds of crosstimes and just start putting in funny numbers?

And where did this brick go? (Near 25th and M)


5 Comments so far

  1. Wayan (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 9:21 am

    I think a pedestrian used the brick to try and knock a little sense into DC’s messed up crosswalk signs.

  2. WFY (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 9:39 am

    The countdowns where off along 14th St. NW downtown last night. They would count down to zero (with the walk man still on) and then reset to 10 with the don’t walk hand.

  3. Neil Cooler (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 11:05 am

    Traffic lights in busy areas are timed very specifically to tune with the traffic, the traffic at the next light, and so on. Waiting at a light an extra 2 seconds might keep 5 cars from backing up at a light, for instance, and thus keeping those five people from ‘blocking the box’.

    there is a good comic here that illustrates this:

  4. RumorsDaily (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 12:10 pm

    I have a guess about the brick.

    Two summers ago in the midst of an incredibly horrible, long-running heatwave in DC I came across a brick sidewalk that wasn’t able to stand up to the temperatures. Apparently the bricks had been too tightly packed and when they expanded under the constant heat there wasn’t room and the entire sidewalk buckled up. It was actually a pretty pattern they formed-they stayed in order, but arched up into the air. Maybe the same thing happened here and in order to prevent it from happening again (or just to get the bricks to sit back down) they simply removed one.

    Just a guess.

  5. Don (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 2:46 pm

    Or it’s also possible someone like my long-gone grandmother “happened” to it. She liked to collect bricks from the places she went, and she’d then make a magic marker notation on them to remind her where they came from. As a kid I never thought much of it, though I knew abstractly it was something you shouldn’t do.

    Funny how petty theft and vandalism can be so repellent in reality but vaguely charming in retrospect. My grandma, proto-Borf.

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