'Scrambles' will help pedestrians get over easy, city hopes

The City of Edmonton is testing “pedestrian scrambles” at two major intersections — one downtown and the other in Old Strathcona.

Design allows walkers to cross intersections in any direction, including diagonally

Four pedestrians try out the new diagonal crossing at Jasper Avenue at 104th Street on Friday. (CBC)

The City of Edmonton is testing "pedestrian scrambles" at two major intersections — one downtown and the other in Old Strathcona.

The crosswalk designs allow pedestrians to cross an intersection in every direction, including diagonally, when all vehicular traffic has been temporarily stopped.

Travel times for vehicles, transit and pedestrians will be affected, but the changes are expected to improve pedestrian safety and convenience, the city said in a news release Friday.

One scramble has been installed at Jasper Avenue and 104th Street.

The other will be installed Oct. 5 at Whyte Avenue and 105th Street.

The city explained how the scrambles will work:

  • Pedestrians can cross the intersection in every direction, including diagonally, at the same time while all vehicular traffic is temporarily stopped.
  • When north-south and east-west drivers have the right of way, pedestrians moving in those directions will be stopped.
  • To ensure no vehicles cross paths with pedestrians, vehicles are not permitted to make right turns when the traffic signal is red.
New signs at Jasper Avenue and 104th Street tell pedestrians how and when to use the new diagonal crosswalk. (CBC)

The two intersections chosen for the pilot project have high pedestrian volumes, high rates of turning vehicles and a history of pedestrian-vehicle collisions, the city said.

In the last five years there have been two vehicle-pedestrian collisions at Jasper Avenue and 104th Street, and five at Whyte Avenue and 105th Street.

"Safety for everyone is the priority for this pilot," Olga Messinis, the city's director of network operations, said in a statement.

"The goal of the pilot project is to see if this intersection design decreases or eliminates collisions between pedestrians and vehicles, a major goal for the City's Vision Zero strategy."

'Barnes Dances'

Pedestrian scrambles are also known as "scramble intersections" or "exclusive pedestrian intervals."

They are also called "Barnes Dances," after American traffic engineer Henry Barnes, who first popularized them in the 1950s.

Edmonton has had them before. In 1959, the final two were removed from downtown intersections to accommodate growing demand for vehicles.

The idea resurfaced as part of the city's road safety strategy.

Calgary has two pedestrian scrambles; one is being tested in downtown St. Albert.

Pedestrian scrambles are in use in New York City and Pittsburgh, and in cities in Australia and Japan.

A pedestrian gets advice Friday on how to use a new "pedestrian scramble" at Jasper Avenue and 104th Street. (CBC)


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