The City of Vancouver is bringing scramble crosswalks back to its downtown core.
As part of the nearly $5.4-million 800 Robson Plaza redesign, an all-walk phase is proposed for the intersections of Howe and Robson Streets, and Hornby and Robson Streets.
In an emailed statement, the City of Vancouver told Global News this location was chosen for a trial “due to high pedestrian and turning vehicle volumes.”
Former Vancouver chief planner Brent Toderian says Robson Plaza is the perfect place to show that scramble crossings can work as an extension of the public space.
“Scramble intersections are not only safer for pedestrians, they’re just more comfortable for pedestrians and they’re more efficient for pedestrians,” said Toderian, a consultant with TODERIAN UrbanWORKS.
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Many world cities including New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Edmonton and Toronto have “pedestrian scrambles.”
The concept involves stopping all vehicle traffic to let pedestrians cross in all directions simultaneously, which could save people from being killed or injured by a turning vehicle.
“It facilitates a faster walking experience,” said Toderian.
“But from a traffic movement perspective, because everybody’s going at once, you have less of these kinds of corner interactions with cars.”
Photos from the City of Vancouver Archives show pedestrians crossing diagonally at Hastings and Granville in the 1940s and 1950s.
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“The scramble intersections that we used to have were taken away because of an emphasis of car movement. There was this feeling that this somehow must be less efficient for the car,” Toderian said.
But decades and many policy changes later, the pedestrian push is back. In December 2011, Steveston’s all-walk signal was the first in B.C. to be re-introduced.
The City of Richmond says the scramble crosswalk at No. 1 Road and Moncton Street has been a success in terms of accommodating high pedestrian traffic volumes in the Steveston seaside village.
On Vancouver Island, the capital city is overhauling one of the busiest intersections in its Inner Harbour. A scramble crosswalk will soon be complete at Victoria’s Government, Wharf and Humboldt Streets.
The City of Vancouver says a construction timeline is currently being developed for the scramble crosswalks at Robson Plaza. Depending on the outcome of the trial, other potentially suitable locations in the city may be explored for similar all-walk crossings.
“The beauty of this situation is there’s an opportunity for a win-win,” Toderian said.
“We don’t have to make everything a tension between cars and pedestrians because intersections that work better for people are the best thing to do.”
Final designs can be viewed here.