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Kingston’s First Scramble Crossing

scramble crossing, Pedestrian priority crossings, University Avenue, Union Street, Queen's University, Kingston, OntarioFor decades, motorists transiting through Queen’s University’s main campus have had to contend with individuals taking huge liberties with respect to the location of pedestrian crosswalks. Those who engage in the sometimes dangerous practice of jaywalking, especially in the vicinity of the campus’ busiest intersection at University and Union, subscribe to the “safety in numbers” line of reasoning.  Although concerns from the community stemming from near misses and close calls have been largely ignored up until this point, the City and university took a big step forward last week with the grand opening of Kingston’s first scramble crossing.

Scramble crossings, otherwise referred to as pedestrian priority crossings or x-crossings, have been implemented in other Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Quebec City with varying degrees of success.  They operate much the same as a normal intersection, with one distinct feature that intermittently stops all vehicle traffic and permits pedestrians to cross in any direction they choose (video demo).  Deanna Green, City of Kingston’s Manager of Traffic, outlines why the time was right for Kingston’s first scramble crossing at University and Union:

More than 2,000 pedestrians an hour cross at this intersection during the busiest times of the day, so prioritizing pedestrians at this intersection makes sense.

The creation of the city’s first pedestrian priority crossing is a definite win for Kingstonians who have been advocating for greater accessibility and placing the needs of pedestrians above those of motorists.  Nevertheless, as evidenced by failed scramble crossings in other Canadian cities, we must also acknowledge that they are not always a good fit.  For instance, Toronto was recently forced to remove one of their scrambles after a study found “modest positive benefits for pedestrians” and “negative impacts to vehicular traffic”, which resulted in a 50 percent increase in rear-end collisions.  With such opposing results in mind, this week’s poll asks:

Will the scramble crossing at Union and University succeed/last?

  • Yes, absolutely. (64%, 287 Votes)
  • No. (28%, 124 Votes)
  • Not sure. (8%, 34 Votes)

Total Voters: 445

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Will the installation of a scramble crossing at Queen’s busiest intersection stem the flow of jaywalkers and remedy safety concerns, or is the problem too widespread to be fixed by a single scramble?  Would you like to see the City of Kingston try this out at another busy intersection, and if so, where?  Finally, do you think that the City’s first pedestrian priority crossing at Union and University is here to stay, or is it destined to be another failed example of why they aren’t always the right solution?

Photo credit to Queen’s Princial, Daniel Woolf.

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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...

6 thoughts on “Kingston’s First Scramble Crossing

  • September 7, 2015 at 10:26 am
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    I don't understand why this is even controversial. These crossings work elsewhere in the world, and since the safety of the most vulnerable road users (pedestrians) is the most important thing in transport planning… is there even any convincing argument to the contrary?

    • September 8, 2015 at 11:01 am
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      I don’t know if they’re working “everywhere else” in the world they’ve been installed. Toronto, for example, has reported adverse or negligible results. Specifically, they’ve resulted in greater vehicle accidents (noted above) or otherwise not as much foot traffic as originally planned. That latter point may be more relevant to arguing whether or not they are pulling their weight, and ultimately the best metric for us to gauge whether or not they’re a good fit for Union/University.

    • September 9, 2015 at 11:34 pm
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      Was there a real "safety issue" ever there? I could be wrong, but I can't recall a pedestrian accident happening there. I've walked by there 1000s of times and never perceived a safety issue. I walk throughout the city more then most, and that intersection wouldn't even occur to me if I made a list of issues putting pedestrians at risk.

  • September 7, 2015 at 11:16 am
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    I'm pro scramble crossings but this one has a couple of quirks which I haven't seen in other scrambles around the world. The crossings I've seen before allow traffic to go but NOT pedestrians, whereas this one allows pedestrians to cross with the traffic of the same direction. Also, other scrambles, because pedestrians don't cross when traffic is flowing, allow right turns on red. This Queen's scramble does not allow right turns on red. I think we'll see a lot of confusion initially but hopefully everyone will get used to it. These things only work if everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – all obey the rules.

  • September 8, 2015 at 11:00 am
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    This is a very poor decision. It will create traffic backup and, very obviously, will do little to change jaywalking behaviour. In other words, the benefits will be small, the costs large. Toronto is removing its scramble crossing, which sees over twice as many pedestrians per hour as this crossing, because it performs much worse than other comparable crossings. This crossing doesn't even have a problem with the number of people crossing (which is when scramble crossings can make sense) – a regular crossing can easily hand 2000 people per hour (in Toronto regular crossings handle over 8000 people per hour). To make things worse, this crossing allows pedestrians to cross even when the scramble is not in effect, adding to the costs to traffic. I sincerely hope the city removes this crossing as soon as possible.

  • September 29, 2015 at 12:02 pm
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    I hope it works at Queen's. Too many times students cross in front of me (when it is my green light) because they are late for a class. As mentioned in a previous post … " These things only work if everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and drivers – all obey the rules. "

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