Drivers in the Old Strathcona area have been hit with delays following the implementation of two new scramble crossings.
Pedestrian scramble crossings were recently installed at two intersections along Whyte Avenue — at Gateway Boulevard and Calgary Trail (104 Street).
Scramble crosswalks force vehicles to stop in all directions, allowing pedestrians to cross all ways, including diagonally. Drivers are not allowed to turn right on a red light while pedestrians are crossing.
While the city said the crossings increase pedestrian safety, drivers in the area have noticed increased delays, particularly during rush hour.
At around 6:15 p.m., traffic could be seen backed up for blocks along Gateway Boulevard approaching Whyte Avenue. Eastbound traffic along Whyte was also heavily backed up at the intersection.
“If they’re going to scramble the crosswalks it means it’s getting more people to cross the street and it’s going to slow down traffic and back things up,” said Akeem Brown, who was driving in the area on Friday afternoon.
“There was a little bit coming west on Whyte Ave coming from Sherwood Park. I actually live in the area so I don’t always drive here, but I did notice a little bit more congestion.”
Brown likes the new crosswalks, and said it makes pedestrians feel safer crossing the road. However, he said maybe some time adjustments could be made during peak hours.
“If it’s like rush hour times when people go to work, maybe don’t make it as long to be considerate of those commuters. But during the day right now, it’s closer to noon, I don’t think it’s as appropriate — maybe longer — time sensitive, you know?”
Some also say area construction isn’t helping with traffic congestion.
“On a good day it’s a five-minute drive to get here. It took me 16 minutes and you’re sitting the whole way really. It’s pretty bad,” said Kelsey Hatch, who works along 82 Avenue.
Hatch added she likes the new scramble option as well.
“It’s nice to go either way.”
In a statement, the City of Edmonton said traffic signals along the travel corridor in the area were all adjusted in order to accommodate the scrambles. The city said it has received positive feedback about the new crossings.
“While minor impacts to vehicle wait times are expected in order to accommodate the exclusive crossing phase for pedestrians, these safer crossings allow people to begin and complete their crossing on a walk signal without being in conflict with turning vehicles,” City of Edmonton director of safe mobility Jessica Lamarre said.
“We are monitoring both scramble intersections to understand how the locations are performing for people driving, walking, biking, and rolling.”
Cherie Klassen, executive director of the Old Strathcona Business Association, said she’s heard from drivers who say the new crossings add two to five minutes to their commute.
“We’ve heard a little bit of rumblings about people concerned with the backup, understandably. That’s what happened with the 105 (Street) one when it went in as well,” she said.
She admits it will take some time for Edmontonians to adjust, but believes it’s about putting the pedestrian first.
“We’ve always advocated that Whyte Avenue is a main street, pedestrian-focused area first, and an arterial road second,” Klassen said.
“All the city’s data shows these are the highest collision locations so we’re actually really welcoming… I cross here almost daily and it’s exceptionally dangerous. I think a lot of people and patrons are happy, they feel safer.”
Lamarre said these types of upgrades help the city continue toward its goal of Vision Zero, the long-term goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries.
Edmonton now has 10 pedestrian scrambles throughout the city. More information on where they’re located and how to use them can be found on the city’s website.