You’re An “Idiot” If You Push Crosswalk Buttons In NYC And Here’s Why

Joshua Saxon Joshua Saxon

NYC crosswalk idiot buttons

What if we told you that every time you push a crosswalk button in NYC, you are part of a secret placebo experiment that’s been happening right under your nose for years and you never realised?

Neo is amazed
Yep. Truth is, an estimated 90% of crosswalk buttons in NYC do absolutely nothing to speed up the process of getting a walk signal.

Ron Burgundy doesn't believe you
It’s true! Since the 1970s, all traffic lights in NYC have been run by a computer program, rendering your one-digit interactions with them as entirely futile. The city decided it would be too expensive to remove each button so they just left them there.

Lazy Parks and Rec
They later discovered that people felt much better when they believed they had some kind of control over their wait time. These buttons are known as placebo buttons or “idiot” buttons.

But wait, Secret NYC. Didn’t you you just say that ‘90%’ of the crosswalk buttons don’t work? What about the other 10%? How do we know which ones work and which ones don’t.” Ah well, there’s the rub. You can’t tell. So you’re going to have to go on pushing the buttons knowing you’re a big, stupid “idiot”.


Idiot sandwich
And it’s not just traffic lights that feature idiot buttons. The button to close elevators in NYC mostly only function with an engineer’s key. And music studios also have idiot buttons on their consoles for prima-donna artists who want to tell the producer what to do but don’t even realise the button they pushed did nothing.

See, even pop stars are “idiots”.


Featured  cover image: New York Times

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