#Big Story

#StreetSmarts: See and Be Seen

Vision Hero See and Be Seen Street Safety Education

City kid? We all know it’s the greatest. Why?

Growing up in the city gives you more experience on the street. Think about it: others are stuck in a traffic tie-up with their mom. You’re walking, boarding, or biking, taking the bus or train!

Fun fact:


Having many ways to get around is called multimodal transportation. Here’s more info about multimodal transportation.

Getting around NYC = love

They’re stuck getting driven while you get to move and groove with the most interesting and diverse collection of people on the planet. It’s a pretty powerful thing. But remember Spider-Man’s motto: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

safekids worldwide twitter

NYC had this crazy, awesome idea that if we’re all a bit smarter and more careful on the streets, no one has to die in a crash. It’s called Vision Zero.

A Map of Vision Zero Cities in the US

Now over 40 US cities – NYC, Seattle, Portland, Washington, DC and more – have Vision Zero programs.

Here’s how to be a VisionHero for Vision Zero, and how to see and be seen out there on the streets.

City life is fascinating–and distracting

Life moves pretty fast in the city. If you don’t stop and look around, you could regret it.

It may only take you a few minutes to get from point A to point B, but a lot can happen if you’re not paying attention. Help avoid a crash by looking around (“seeing”), and if you can, take some steps to help others see you, too. 

Things you do all day without even thinking are not exactly safe when crossing walking, boarding, or biking the street.

Part of being savvy in the city is being smart about the world around you. The city is distracting, and some distractions can be dangerous. And not just dangerous–deadly. You don’t need to be scared, but don’t be stupid either.

Walking and texting

texting and walking

Just because so many people do it, that doesn’t make it a good idea. (Matthew Kenwrick / Flickr)

You’ve probably heard that texting and driving is bad. Well texting and walking is not such a great idea either.

A Safe Kids study showed that teens are significantly more vulnerable in the traffic environment.

What’s more…in a survey of over 1,000 teens, they said they were often distracted while walking.

That’s not a good idea…

So many things can happen when you’re crossing the street. A random car may be blocking the crosswalk. A driver could turn without using their tturn signal. A bike could run through the red light.

Check out YouTube superstar Casey Neistat, a real-life Vision Hero…

It’s impossible to predict what other cars will do, so look up from your phone and focus on what’s in front of you. Even better: step off to the side to message and keep going after you’re done. If you’re looking at your screen, how do you know an approaching driver isn’t looking at theirs? Don’t assume that drivers see you. Make sure. Make eye contact with them.

Walking with earphones

nyc street earphones

Hope she at least turned down the volume when she was crossing. (Ed Yourdon / Flickr)

Texting while walking gets a lot of attention, but listening to music is also dangerous.

If you’re wearing earphones, scrolling through Tik Tok, walking down the street, be extra careful. And not just because you might embarrass yourself. Not paying attention can actually be kind of like going temporarily blind.

You could really put yourself at risk.

Wearing earphones while walking causes what’s called “inattentional blindness” as illustrated in The Monkey Business Illusion.

The Monkey Business Illusion

Inattentional Blindness is Not Seeing Because You're Not Paying Attention

Of 116 people injured while wearing headphones, 81 died. Scary.

If you really really really want to keep listening to your tunes, here are 4 things you can do:

  • Use earbuds or earpods instead of noise-cancelling headphones.
  • Pop off one earbud or headphone.
  • Turn down the volume.
  • Look around more carefully.


Rushing across the street while the light is turning

Hey, we’ve all done this at some point, right? Please think twice before you do it again.

traffic signal don't walk GIF

Watch those signals when you’re crossing the street. (Giphy)

People should already be in the crosswalk or even nearly across by the time it starts flashing. Not just starting to cross.

It’s tempting to cross the street once a signal starts flashing. But it’s not the safest idea. What if you drop something important, like your phone or MetroCard? Will you have time to pick it up before the signal turns?

That flashing hand sign actually isn’t saying “Hurry up!” It’s saying “You might not have time to cross safely.”

While pedestrian signals are used as a guide to help you cross the street safely, you make the final decision. Make sure you have enough time to get safely across when the red hand starts flashing. Make a smart choice!

walker car crash GIF

Hey, watch where you’re going. (Giphy)

We shouldn’t have to say this, but don’t cross the street when there’s oncoming traffic! Crosswalks and crossing signals are often the law. But drivers fail. Your life is yours. It’s up to you to decide if you can safely cross. And you’ll never know what’s coming if you’re not watching.

crosswalk near accident GIF

That was close. TOO close. (Giphy)

High traffic roads have crossing signals you activate by push button. If the road has a lot of lanes, a long crosswalk, or faster traffic, it may have an island. It may be safer to island hop than rush to cross. Use extra caution.

But don’t rely on crosswalk buttons. Many crosswalk buttons don’t actually work!

So pushing the button doesn’t mean the light will change right away. Some intersections have weird angles. Cars make the turns faster. It’s hard to see if oncoming traffic is going to turn or not. Do this: Look both ways before crossing and continue to scan the street as you cross.

Turning vehicles

We know that NYC kids 14 and under are most likely to get hit while they’re in the crosswalk with the walk signal in their favor. One of the biggest threats to pedestrian safety is turning vehicles. So protect yourself, and look for them, again, and then again after that!

Walking at night, mist, fog, etc.

walking at night

Walking at night in the city brings up a whole other set of issues. (Greyframe / Flickr)

It’s hard to see! You (and others!) see half as well. Be twice as careful. During the evening, night, rain or fog visibility is low. That means it’s harder for drivers–and walkers–to see clearly.

Be seen! Wearing light colored and/or reflective clothing makes you more visible. You can buy reflective duct tape at a hardware store and add strips to your clothing and gear. Even if you’re walking, it’s good to have a forward-facing headlamp and a rear-facing red light. In some cities it’s the law for cyclists. But no matter what you or your bike are sporting, it’s important to be extra careful and aware of your surroundings.

Wearing something light colored makes you more visible–but no matter what you’re wearing…

To own the night, be aware.

So, especially when it’s harder for cars to see you: Keep your eyes and ears on the street, not your phone or your music.

Be smart and be safe

It’s awesome to use a lot of ways to get around the city.

Everybody on the streets deserves respect. Before you use the streets you got to check, check.”

Knowing how to get around the city means you’re street smart. Use those smarts to show respect, be green, and survive.