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Protesters Cover NYPD Signs Urging Pedestrian Safety On Upper West Side

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Signs of tension erupted on the Upper West Side Tuesday, as a pedestrian set up signs protesting a police initiative targeting pedestrians following a series of traffic deaths.

As CBS 2's Lou Young reported, the message at first may seem puzzling.

"It's vehicles, dummies," the protester's signs read. "When did you last witness a pedestrian run down a car?"

But the sign writer is not talking to the public. He or she is talking to people who wrote a more official sign that it is covering up. The 20th NYPD Precinct has posted pedestrian warnings at intersections along Broadway, and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.

"The NYPD thinks you're worth the wait. Wait for the walk signal before crossing. Wait to cross at intersections only. Wait to be directed by police officers and other public safety officials before entering the intersection," the NYPD signs say. "Why wait? Because collisions don't."

In the wake of recent pedestrian fatalities in the area, the intention is to get people to think twice before stepping out into traffic.

Some Upper West Side residents agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment of the effort.

"The collisions happen because of the vehicles, but if people were a little more careful about when they cross, then there would be fewer," said Fay Robbins.

"They will walk, not aware of what's going on around them in the traffic," added Katarina Bridler.

Proponents of the signs said they are directed at pedestrians because pedestrians are the ones who are most likely to be injured or killed. Critics, though, say they would like to see a more balanced approach.

"It's reminding pedestrians to be careful when they cross the streets, and that's 100 percent appropriate. However, it's not enough," said Tom DeVito of the group Transportation Alternatives.

"The speeders are more of a concern to me than anything else, just personally," added area resident Greg Bridler.

And that brings us to the protesting pedestrian and the covered-up signs that have since been moved by police. Some New Yorkers said they know exactly what the protesters are trying to say.

"I think they should concentrate on the vehicles; New York is a walking town," said Brigette Orchard of the Upper West Side.

"We know what's killing people," added DeVito "And it's cars that are speeding. It's cars that are failing to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk."

But officials have said the signs are a reminder that in too many parts of the city, the penalty for a simple mistake at a crosswalk can be serious injury or death.

The NYPD said the signs are part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's "Vision Zero" program to educate pedestrians and motorists on traffic dangers.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a spokesman for NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said, "The NYPD will continue to educate the public, posting signs and handing out flyers, until there are zero pedestrian deaths."

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