CAUTION DEAD AHEAD

by Kevin Walsh

I have written about stoplights before, the red, green and sometimes yellow type, especially former mounting designs whose examples I found around town in the 1990s when I began compiling this website. One variety I haven’t paid attention to are blinking or continuously lit warning or caution lights. These can be found in “cyclops” form either midblock or mounted at intersections where a regular red-yellow-green light isn’t warranted by traffic volume.

Classic stoplight designs

“Olive” post-stop stoplights

Today however I am writing about a specific subgenre of stoplights: caution lamps that are mounted at full stops where traffic must turn left or right, and caution lamps that signal a bend in the road. I don’t think the Department of Transportation has mandated a specific design but, in general, it seems that one has been settled on.

This pair can be found at Douglas Road and Hillside Avenue in Douglaston, adjoining Aurora Pond. The one on the left is unique in that a pair of street signs are mounted on it; few regular stoplights pull that kind of double duty.

Notice that while the pair of unblinking red signals are mounted on the same type of cylindrical posts that are used by many stoploghts and pedestrian control signals, the posts are painted white. This is a frequent feature on caution signals around town. In Douglaston, on Shore Road facing Little Neck Bay, the cross street end there are a number of similar poles to be found there.

Unblinking red is not universal. You’ll find blinking red and yellow combos, or cyclops red or cyclops yellow. I haven’t deciphered an intentional difference between the two.

This caution signal was mounted facing the eastbound lane of West 125th Street where the street makes an eastern bend at Morningside Avenue. It illustrates another occasional feature: it’s behind a metal cage. When the signals are mounted low on a post within reach of pedestrians, the local youth’s habit is to destroy the glass mounting, so the DOT took pains to install shields like this.

Also notice that this was one of the last Ruleta signals still on the job in NYC. Those were the red and green lamps mounted on “olive” posts catercorner on intersections. Most were swapped out for other designs by the mid-1980s. Today most stoplights found at intersections are made by Marbleite.

The Ruleta was replaced by this blinking yellow two-lamper.

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”

3/21/20

8 comments

Lou DeMonte March 21, 2020 - 11:33 am

There used to be a cyclops blinking red light at the intersection of Vernon Boulevard and 31st Ave. It was placed
there after the pier was demolished that extended the avenue out into the east river. Outside Boulevard Garden apartments there is a hanging two way quad cyclops red blinker at the intersection of 30th Ave. and 57th. St.

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Frankie March 21, 2020 - 8:19 pm

I didn’t realize that Queens has two Hillside Avenues. I finally found it on Google maps.

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Ron S March 22, 2020 - 10:23 am

There are still some along Ditmars Blvd. as it parallels Grand Central Parkway.

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Jerry Friedman March 22, 2020 - 4:26 pm

Wow- new heights in esoterica – I love it! As a kid I was inexplicably fascinated by these also! My “home” version of this was a caged number at the end of Malba Drive in Queens. Alas, google street view tells me this one is no longer in place – bummer!

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John March 23, 2020 - 9:46 am

The most curious stoplight I’ve encountered is at the dead-end intersection of 119th St. and 20th Ave. in College Point. It’s such a sleepy little corner of Queens. In front of the stoplight, apparently there to prevent cars from driving into Flushing Bay, are usually parked cars and dumpsters, backed by a dilapidated chain-link fence.

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Kevin Walsh March 23, 2020 - 5:19 pm

Meanwhile 22nd Avenue, the next block south, has a very low one, shorter than me.

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John March 23, 2020 - 7:29 pm

Holy smokes, you’re right (not that I had doubts), and it’s so low that I honestly never noticed it. Perhaps I never bothered to walk down that dead end, which is rather plain compared to 20th Ave.

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John Shea March 23, 2020 - 10:17 am

As a kid I found the caged dead end lamps mysterious for some reason. The ones I am familiar with were on streets interrupted by the Bay Ridge Division of the LIRR. I note that at least some of them have been replaced by LEDs. Funny that the caged lamps actually looked something like a modern LED array with the individual LEDs visible.

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