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City Signs to Help Pedestrians (They Aren’t Just for Tourists)


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It is a badge of urban pride: knowing how to walk around New York City without a map.


But the Bloomberg administration believes that residents and tourists alike could use a bit of help sometimes. So the city is planning a new system of street signage intended to help pedestrians get from here to there with as little confusion as possible.


The goal, according to the city’s Transportation Department, is to promote pedestrianism. More walking means fewer crowds on the subway, and potentially more patrons in neighborhood businesses. And why should drivers get all the guidance?


The design of the signs has yet to be determined: On Monday, the city asked interested companies to submit ideas by next month. But an example released by officials resembled the type of colorful “you-are-here” guide one might find at the local mall: a gridded area street map, sprinkled with major landmarks and transit options. One feature is novel for city maps: concentric circles that represent an approximate walking time.


Tourists, surely, could benefit from such guidance. But a survey commissioned by the city found that residents may not be the navigational experts they make themselves out to be. One-third of the New Yorkers stopped on the street could not confidently say which way was north. And about 1 in 10 admitted to getting lost in the past week; knowing New Yorkers’ egos, that figure may be on the low side.


Perhaps New Yorkers cannot be blamed for their confusion, given the city’s geographic quirks. Officials noted that Queens “can particularly confound a pedestrian”: in Astoria, 30th Avenue, 30th Road and 30th Drive all run parallel.


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