Ah-ha! Scramble Intersections

I was buzzing around the Internets today (as I do), looking for interesting photos, reading up on celebrity gossip, browsing through drink recipes, Googling people’s names – you know how it goes. Little did I know that when I clicked on one of my RSS feeds I would be slapped in the face by what seems like a brilliant idea: Scramble Intersections!

I’ve done my fair share of traveling, but never have I seen such a thing. According to Wikipedia this type of intersection is also referred to as a “pedestrian scramble”:

A pedestrian scramble, also known as a Barnes Dance or exclusive pedestrian phase, is a pedestrian crossing system that stops all traffic and allows pedestrians to cross intersections in every direction at the same time. It was first used in Kansas City and Vancouver in the late 1940s, and has since then been adopted in many other cities and countries.

With a scramble intersection there is no mixing of cars and people like we’re used to. First the cars go, then they stop. Then the pedestrians go (in every direction imaginable), then they stop. The only chance for a pedestrian to be hit is if they try to squeeze across the street at the last minute, and that’s when Darwin’s Law kicks in.

Now lots of people in DC like to complain about the safety of our streets and sometimes worry that they’re putting their lives in danger as a pedestrian. They sometimes mention specific intersections, even specific crosswalks at an intersection, such as the southwest crosswalk at 16th & U. What do you think, DC? Would some of our intersections benefit from such a system? Would you feel safer or just plain confused?

Hailing from the Mile High City, Max has also lived in Tinsel Town, the Emerald City, as well as the City of Brotherly Love. Now a District resident, he likes to write about cool photos by local photographers, the DC restaurant and bar scene, or anything else that pops into his mind.

7 thoughts on “Ah-ha! Scramble Intersections

  1. I’ve seen these in other cities and think they’re a fine idea, though I am sure you’d get a lot of bitching about the fact that you couldn’t allow right-on-red at these intersections…

  2. Knowing the average skill level of area drivers (and taxis), it’s also quite possible that there may be even more accidents. It would take people a while to get used to the new concept.

  3. I am pretty sure DC had intersections like this many years ago. My oldest brother was stationed here in the 60’s and we would visit. I recall an intersection that had crosswalks bordering the “box”, and diagonal crosswalks, too. Don’t ask me where it was, I was like 8 or 12 or something…

  4. There is one of these in Boston- at the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets. But it’s only about 10 seconds long before traffic starts moving again in one of the directions. I loved being able to cross diagonally through the intersection!

  5. DDOT has an intersection like this right now at Connecticut and Morrison Street in Chevy Chase. It was installed at the request of the ANC to replace the orange flag system. To date, there has not been on car or pedestrian incident in 19 months of testing.

    The difference between the current DC light and the one cited above is that the DC light flashed yellow for Connecticut and red for Morrison. When a pedestrian activates the signal, it goes to all red, and after a proper pedestrian phase, reverts to the flashing phase. The signal replaced stop signs on Morrison, so in essence it operates the same as before except when a pedestrian wants to traverse Connecticut Ave.

    The hitch: the same ANC that requested the signal has now been asking residents to spam DDOt with calls to change the signal to a traditional red/yellow/green signal. Such a move would place three signals within about 650 feet. The consequences of which would probably overburden Connecticut Avenue and cause excessive traffic on the side streets.

    This is a good reason why traffic engineering should be left to experts and not politicos.

    Let’s hope the Mayor and DDOT keep the light as is and including it as part of the pedestrian signals featured in DDOTs Pedestrian Plan.

    I would certainly encourage anyone interested to let the Mayor know!

    And yes, the Barnes Dance signal existed in the Downtown F Street area in the 1950’s.

  6. Thanks for the info, Maia. You’re definitely in the know! And I agree that traffic engineering should be left to traffic engineers and city planners.