That's why the city is taking steps to change that by releasing what it calls a comprehensive pedestrian safety study and announcing the planned installation of 1,500 pedestrian countdown signals across the city.
"These kinds of countdown signals really help take the guess work out of getting across our corridors safely," NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said.
The new signals display numbers that count down the seconds remaining before the "flashing hand" phase turns solid red.
The intent is to help pedestrians decide whether there is enough time to safely cross.
"If it says 12, you can attempt to cross it. You'll get across, but if it goes to 9, don't attempt to cross that street," pedestrian Theresa Madden said.
So far, the countdown signals are only installed at a few intersections, including 14th and Third Avenue in Manhattan and 108th Street and Northern Boulevard in Corono, Queens.
The city says the initial pilot program helped identify where the signals would be most effective.
"What we found was that at wide intersections the countdown clocks improved safety," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Among the notoriously busy streets slated to get the new countdown signals first are the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, 4th avenue in Brooklyn, Broadway in Manhattan, Queens Boulevard in Queens and Hylan Boulevard in Staten Island.
Henry Bolding, who uses a cane, couldn't be happier.
"You know exactly about how much time you got to get across the street. So that's not bad," Bolding said.