Should Kingston Embrace Scramble Crosswalks?

Pedestrian scramble, x crossing, cross walk, Kingston, OntarioRight foot, left foot, one foot in front of the other and so on.  Walking is a pretty pedestrian topic of conversation, but in the past we’ve stirred up some fairly decent debates centred around this activity, specifically whether or not pedestrian friendly streets are a good fit for Kingston (they are), as well as etiquette to ensure widespread enjoyment of our sidewalks.  Whether your daily commute involves an automobile, bike lanes or public transportation, chances are you’re also relying on your own two feet to get to and from all points in between.  In recent months there’s been a lot of talk about the lack of parking downtown, lane expansions to combat traffic congestion and of course, the ongoing pursuit of a third crossing.  In an effort to shift the focus back on the needs of those who commute by walking and rolling, this week’s question asks:

[poll id=”64″]

For readers who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a pedestrian scramble, also referred to as diagonal crosswalks or x-crossings, they’re used as the busiest of intersections whereby traffic is stopped in all directions to allow those on foot to cross in whatever direction they desire (video demo).  Those who support pedestrian scrambles tout the benefits such as fewer incidents of jaywalking, and decreased time required to clear pedestrian crosswalks.  Opponents argue that the benefits are overstated, and that increased wait times at x-crossings have resulted in higher rater of jaywalking and pedestrian strikes.  While the City of Kingston continues to seek new ways to make downtown, specifically Princess Street, more pedestrian friendly, recommendations have thus far opposed the pedestrian scramble.

Is there a downtown intersection with enough foot traffic to benefit from a pedestrian scramble?  Should the City of Kingston trial an x-crossing during the busy tourist season, similar to the popular Princess Street Promenade?  Please drop off a comment or two and let us know what you think about pedestrian scrambles. As an added incentive, this week we’ll be sending out one of our awesomely attractive, impossible to get anywhere else Kingstonist tees to the person responsible for our favorite/most thought provoking comment.

Special thanks to wvs for today’s photo of Canada’s first pedestrian scramble, located at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

21 thoughts on “Should Kingston Embrace Scramble Crosswalks?

  • I'm still finding it odd living in a country where walking across the road is a crime… in most civilized countries, pedestrians have right of way, and crosswalks (of whatever kinds) are there just to make it more formal. The best thing you could do to right the priorities that are currently skewed in favour of the car in Canada, would be to abolish the crime of jaywalking.

    On the main subject, diagonal crosswalks are excellent in very large cities with wide streets and heavy traffic – they are very common in Tokyo (where I've lived) and work well. I am not sure they are completely necessary in Kingston but I wouldn't object. What we do need is simply more crosswalks in the downtown area, especailly on the part of Princess Street above Division, where there are hardly any.

    • Funny you mention jaywalking in relation to our car culture. I forget exactly where I read it, but jaywalking didn't used to be a crime in Canada, US etc… It came to be in the early 1900s, while the campaign to make it illegal to cross the street was largely backed by automobile manufacturers who wanted to make it faster for drivers to commute.

    • Crime or not, cross walks promote predictable places to expect pedestrians. Jaywalking is about being seen (or not) by drivers. As a driver I don't curse at pedestrians who jaywalk for slowing me down, I curse at them for risking their lives and mine to save a few steps.

      • If drivers expected pedestrians everywhere in cities (and I am not talking downtown roads not Highways here) they would drive slower and more safely, and perhaps, just sometimes, decide not to drive and walk or ride themselves instead. This is the difference between a society dominated by cars and a more civilized society. 'Jaywalking' only risks lives where drivers have got into the habit of thinking that they own the road. Plus, it sounds like a childish insult not a real crime, which is probably just about the level of thought that went into its invention.

        • "If drivers expected pedestrians everywhere in cities…"

          I dont think that would work in big cities. Certainly not in downtown Tokyo.

          I thnk its reasonable to expect that pedestrians will cross at specified locations or at least when the coast is clear. Saying that car drivers should always be on the look out for a crossing pedestrian (I assume thats what you inferred by "everywhere") puts an extra burden on the driver. With that said, I expect car drivers to yield to a pedestrians when the pedestrian has the right of way either in a cross-walk or intersection…. If cops are going to give jaywalking tickets, then i expect them to also give out tickets to drivers who encroach on cross-walks or dont yield to pedestrians who have the right of way (that I have yet to see in Kingston).

          • Yes, there should be extra burdens on drivers to take care of more vulnerable road users. Those with the capacity to cause most harm should have the most responsibility. It's a basic moral principle that seems to have been replaced in North America by 'Get out of my way'…

  • Part1
    In downtown Calgary, there currently are 2 trial scramble cross-walks that have been up and running for about a year. At first, people didnt know what to do at them, but with time people became more adjusted and I would say that now the system is quite successful at corraling pedestrians til its their turn. With that said, Calgary does have a culture of respecting red lights and waiting your turn – something Kingston hasnt really developed if I recall. As a pedestrian, it seems to work pretty good, I dont feel like I have to wait too long to go where I want and the bonus of being able to walk diagonal is it cuts down on the number of lights I have to wait for if I want to go to the kitty-corner side. It can get congested if there are lots of people crossing all at once which can make all the criss-crossing of streams a bit messy…

  • Part 2
    I dont really drive much in the yyc core, but turning left when a pedestrian can walk into the cross-walk at any time (legally) creates a bit of a distraction and, of course a potential safety risk. If vehicles can go through intersections and make turns knowing pedestrians wont be in the middle or crossing at the last minute, I would think it should make everyone safer.

    Is downtown Kingston really that busy though? I cant think of too many corners that could warrant one in Kingston. Maybe King and Brock… It gets pretty busy during the summer, especially when the market it on. Or maybe at the corner of Ontario and Brock? Lots of tourists getting off buses and wandering aimlessly around.

  • I would not object, but like David, I see them as unecessary in a town this size. What I would rather see is motorists observe the rules that are already in place, and to chill out a bit, please. Yelling and rolling toward the crosswalk will not make pedestrians move any faster. So just chill, before you run someone over.

    • Yes!!!! It would! It is our hopes this summer to put a proposal together to present to the city for this to happen! Students in the school of urban and regional planning have already done some research on this intersection and recommended a scramble crossing. KCAT is working to put something together I will keep all posted.

        • Have you ever tried to drive through that intersection between when classes get out, mr_rectifier? It is a huge safety hazard. It's a mad house, really. I'm afraid for my life when I cross those streets at those times. Apart from nearly being hit by cars, bikes, and many close calls with buses, transports and construction vehicles, this past year I even saw a motorcyclist crash trying to avoid people.

          There IS pedestrian volume here — particularly during the middle of the day and particularly during the school year. Having the extra crossing time allows that volume to better, and more quickly and safely get where it is going, mitigating the safety hazard.

  • First of all, the Ontario Highway Traffic Act (which governs all roads within the province) does not have a "jaywalking" section. It simply says that "Where portions of a roadway are marked for pedestrian use, no pedestrian shall cross the roadway except within a portion so marked" [144 (22)]. So it is not against the law to cross where there is no crosswalk; it IS against the law to not properly use a crosswalk where there is one. The exact interpretation of "where" (10 metres? 30 metres? 100 metres?) is not clear, but it is generally accepted that crossing mid-block is fine, so long as you grant the right-of-way to drivers and don't impede the flow of traffic.

    Secondly, I don't believe that Kingston has anywhere near the volume of pedestrian traffic necessary to justify a scramble. I spent 10 years working at the corner of Yonge and Bloor in Toronto – now THAT justified a diagonal crosswalk, and in fact the city installed one there a couple of years back. I'm delighted now to work, walk, and ride my bike in a city that doesn't need to resort to such measures.

  • I believe making right turns on red lights illegal would serve to protect pedestrians more than scramble crossings. It is important to break up that movement of traffic and force drivers to stop, as often as possible, within city limits. As well, the so called 'courtesy crossings' should be replaced with actual stop lights, since most cars do not stop.

    I also believe greater bike infrastructure should take precedent over scramble crossing.

    • The province is studying making stopping required at "courtesy" crosswalks like they are in other provinces. The problem with making them traffic light controlled is the cost, $200k each.

    • The way drivers in this city have been treating right on red. My understanding is "STOP, then go right on red if there is absolutely nothing else incoming" not "just jam on the gas pedal the instant you're at a red light and want to go right because you are the most important person in the world, all hats off to you, yer majesty!"

  • Certainly stop signs would not cost 200K each and could be placed at every intersection.

    • There are specific guidelines from the province on what traffic counts and speeds call for stop signs or lights. Last term council did ignore that in putting in a 4 way stop, with staff very much against the idea on the basis the city could be liable if an accident occurred where there shouldn't have been a 4 way stop, and the accident rate can be increased by having them. Signs don't stop cars on their own…walk down Johnson at night and see how few crossing/turning cars come to a stop, with some barely slowing. Google something like "crosswalks more dangerous" and you'll find studies concluding the false sense of security increases the risk.

      Plus environmentally its a huge emission increase to have that much stop and start traffic.

  • I'm sure most people have lived in or at least visited other City's. My city of choice where I spent a fair amount of time is Wellington New Zealand. They used "Pedestrian Scrambles" in many locations, some of which were busier and some of which were less busy than the intersections being discussed here. Are they absolutely necessary? Probably not. Are they useful to pedestrians, and do they make pedestrian travel safer? Absolutely. I had never seen one before that, but I can totally see the value. Cars get their turn, pedestrians get their turn, with no right turns on red (or lefts on left there). Everyone is happy.

    Anyway, I'm not entirely sure that Kingston's pedestrian traffic volume warrants this type of thing yet (except perhaps on campus), but that doesn't matter. It will be difficult to encourage non-vehicle forms of transport without making them safer and encouraging them by creating features such as this. The City may find it difficult to become a sustainable City without better supporting non-automotive forms of transportation. Just take a look at the most of the top dollar value "priorities" – they are all founded on moving more automobile traffic more efficiently. On the other hand, I guess we already call ourselves the 'most sustainable City', so I guess no work is required to get us there. ;)

    • Congrats, Kook! We liked your comment the best this week. For your troubles, we have a fancy Kingstonist t-shirt for you. We'll be in touch.

Leave a Reply

You cannot copy content from this page, please share the link instead!