City of Vancouver to explore creating six-way pedestrian scramble crossings

Apr 19 2023, 8:31 pm

Imagine an intersection where pedestrians can cross the street in every direction at the same time, including paint markings on the road that allow them to walk diagonally.

To achieve this six-way pedestrian crossing, a new traffic signal phase that stops all vehicle traffic is also added to the intersection.

Termed a “pedestrian scramble,” bringing this pedestrian crossing concept to Vancouver would not amount to reinventing the wheel.

The world’s best-known pedestrian scramble is certainly Shibuya Crossing where as many as 3,000 people cross the intersection in each vehicle stop signal phase. For well over a decade, a pedestrian scramble has existed at the busy intersection at Oxford Circus in London.

Within Canada, there are five pedestrian scrambles in Toronto, including the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets downtown.

tokyo shibuya crossing pedestrian scramble

The iconic Shibuya Crossing intersection in Tokyo with its pedestrian scramble. (Shutterstock)

oxford circus london pedestrian scramble

The pedestrian scramble intersection in Oxford Circus in London, UK. (Shutterstock)

In 2021, Edmonton added two additional pedestrian scrambles for a total of 10 intersections with such crossing phases and markings. There is even a pedestrian scramble in Banff’s village centre at the intersection of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street.

More locally, there has been a pedestrian scramble at the intersection of No. 1 Road and Moncton Street in the heart of Richmond’s Steveston Village since 2011.

But Vancouver has yet to adopt the pedestrian scramble for some intersections or even test their effectiveness.

yonge dunas toronto pedestrian scramble

The pedestrian scramble at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas streets in downtown Toronto. (Shutterstock)

No 1 Road Moncton Street Steveston Village Richmond pedestrian scramble f

The pedestrians scramble at the intersection of No. 1 Road and Moncton Street in Richmond’s Steveston Village. (Google Maps)

banff avenue pedestrian scramble f

The pedestrian scramble at the intersection of Banff Avenue and Wolf Street in Banff’s village centre. (Google Maps)

The City of Vancouver had previously considered a pedestrian scramble pilot project in the early 2010s, but it did not proceed.

In a public meeting next week, Vancouver City Council is expected to approve a member motion by ABC councillors Peter Meiszner and Lenny Zhou directing City staff to create an implementation plan for a pedestrian crossing on a pilot project basis.

City staff will return to City Council by the end of September 2023 with recommendations and potential location options for a pedestrian scramble, including a “range of appropriate intersection examples in the city with high levels of pedestrian traffic in order to assess the effectiveness of scramble crossings in the local Vancouver context and determine their value in terms of the City‚Äôs pedestrian and traffic safety best practices and enhanced mobility objectives.”

The councillors state they have heard suggestions from the public to explore the locations of the intersection of West Broadway and Cambie Street and the intersection of Commercial Drive and East 1st Avenue.

“Many cities around the world use pedestrian scrambles to provide safe and accessible crossings in high-pedestrian areas. Pedestrian scrambles enhance walkability, which encourages more people to choose travel options that are active, healthy, and environmentally sustainable, while increasing foot traffic that supports local business,” reads the motion.

pedestrian crossing

Intersection of Robson Street and Hornby Street in downtown Vancouver with the all-walk pedestrian crossing phase. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

In Summer 2019, the municipal government created an “all-walk” phase for the intersection of Hornby and Robson streets, tied in with the project to redesign the roadway above Robson Square into a permanent pedestrian-only space. But unlike a pedestrian scramble, pedestrians cannot make diagonal movements at the intersection — an all-walk phase at this particular intersection stops vehicle traffic to only allow for a three-way crossing at the west end of the public plaza.

According to the councillors, a pedestrian scramble was contemplated in the design process of the pedestrian crossing improvements for the intersection of Hornby and Robson streets, but City planners ultimately decided to proceed with a new all-walk phase to “provide increased walk time for pedestrians who could also proceed in the south crosswalk with eastbound left turning vehicles given that there would be no vehicle/pedestrian conflict within the south crosswalk during this phase.”

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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