Pedestrian scramble

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One of the world's most heavily used pedestrian scrambles, at Hachikō Square in Shibuya, Tokyo

A pedestrian scramble, also known as scramble intersection (Canada), 'X' Crossing (UK), diagonal crossing (US), and, more poetically, a Barnes Dance, is a pedestrian crossing system that stops all vehicular traffic and allows pedestrians to cross an intersection in every direction, including diagonally, at the same time.

It was first used in Canada and the United States in the late 1940s,[1][2] but it has since fallen out of favour with traffic engineers in the United States, as it is seen as prioritising flow of pedestrians over flow of car traffic.[2] However, it prioritises pedestrians over vehicles only during a portion of the traffic control cycle, but it prioritising vehicles over pedestrians for the remainder of the cycle. It also has benefits for pedestrian amenity and safety, which have led to new examples being installed in many countries in recent years.


The name "Barnes Dance" commemorates traffic engineer Henry Barnes. While he did not claim to have invented it himself, Barnes was a strong advocate of it, having observed the difficulties his daughter experienced on her way to school.[3] He first introduced it in his home city of Denver, Colorado in the 1940s and later brought it to Baltimore and New York City.[2] In his autobiography, The Man With the Red and Green Eyes (1965), Barnes recorded that a City Hall reporter, John Buchanan, first coined the phrase by writing that "Barnes has made the people so happy they're dancing in the streets."[4]


In Australia[edit]

In Adelaide, there are two scrambles on either end of Rundle Mall, King William Street and another on Pulteney Street. There is another crossing at the intersection of King William Street, Waymouth Street and Pirie Street.

In Brisbane, there are two noteworthy scrambles: one in the central business district at the intersection of Adelaide and Edward Streets, adjacent to the Queen Street Mall and an entrance to Translink's Central Station, and a second at the intersection of Vulture and Boundary Streets in the eclectic West End suburb. In Darwin, there is a pedestrian scramble at the CBD end of Smith St Mall.

In Melbourne, there is a pedestrian scramble at the intersection of Flinders and Elizabeth Streets, in front of Flinders Street railway station, allowing pedestrians to walk directly to the station and the two island tram platforms in the middle of both streets.

In Sydney, there are numerous examples in built-up commercial and CBD areas, like the intersection of George and Druitt Streets (with one of the corner blocks being the Sydney Town Hall), Church Street in Parramatta also has them, as does the Fairfield, New South Wales central business district.

In Canada[edit]

Vancouver was one of the first cities worldwide to use the concept (at individual locations).[citation needed] London, Ontario, had a Barnes' Dance crosswalk in the 1960s at the intersection of Clarence and King streets. In Toronto, the intersection of Yonge Street and Dundas Street, the location of Yonge-Dundas Square, has the city's first installed scramble intersection[5] and has since been joined by others in the downtown area. In 2015, Toronto is eliminating a scramble crossing "after an evaluation study found 'modest positive benefits for pedestrians' and 'negative impacts to vehicular traffic.' The staff report also noted that sideswipe collisions at Bay and Bloor have more than doubled and rear-end type crashes have increased by 50% “likely due to increased driver frustration.” As of September 2015, Kingston, Ontario, will have a scramble crosswalk at the corners of Union Street and University Avenue to increase the safety of Queen's University students. Calgary has two pedestrian scrambles in the Eau Claire neighbourhood. Quebec City and Banff also have a few pedestrian scramble intersections.

In Japan[edit]

Pedestrian scrambles are ubiquitous in Japan, where over 300 such intersections exist, it is known as a scramble crossing (スクランブル交差点 sukuranburu-kōsaten?).

The largest, and most famous, diagonal crossings are found in Tokyo, outside Shibuya station [6] and Sukiyabashi, Ginza.

Kansai also has many diagonal crossings, including four outside the north exit of Kyoto Station alone. Most of the diagonal crossings in Osaka are located in the south of the city, in Abeno ward.

The first diagonal crossing to be installed in Japan was in the Kyushu city of Kumamoto in 1969.

In the Netherlands[edit]

In the Netherlands, a version of this crossing, called a Simultaneous Green light for Bicyclists, combined with an all way green light for pedestrians, is currently being used in a number of intersections in the North and East of the Netherlands.

In New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, the first Barnes Dance was introduced in 1958 on Queen Street, Auckland, and was soon found in other cities as well.[3] The Queen Street examples are Custom Street, Shortland, Wyndham, Victoria and Wellesley Street intersections. When Mayoral Drive was constructed in the 1970s it was not created as a Barnes Dance -indicative of a change in traffic management models.

The Queen Street crossings remain today, despite early 2000s attempts to remove them for greater car priority, and have been extended with greater numbers of phases and pedestrian green times during the late 2000s.[citation needed] Additionally, some Barnes Dance intersections do not provide painted crossings and are therefore de facto, such as the intersection of Grafton Rd and Symonds St within the University of Auckland city campus.

Karangahape Road had two such crossings - the Queen Street / K Road intersection was modified in the 1990s but the Pitt Street / K Road intersection is still a Barnes Dance. On nearby Ponsonby Road there is a Barnes Dance at Franklin Road. There is a Barnes Dance on the Great North Road at the Surrey Crescent intersection with Williamson Avenue. There is also a Barnes Dance at the multiple street intersection of Lake Road, Hurstmere Road, Northcroft Street and The Strand in Takapuna.

Barnes Dances also existed in several other cities in New Zealand, notably on Colombo Street, Christchurch and at Cargill's Corner in South Dunedin, but have been gradually phased out. The only Barnes Dance remaining in the South Island at present is on Stafford Street in Timaru and three in the Christchurch CBD.

The UK's first diagonal crossing in Balham

In the United Kingdom[edit]

In London, the first formal diagonal crossing built in the UK was opened in Balham town centre in 2005. The success of the Balham crossing was followed by conversion of the existing crossing facilities at Oxford Circus in 2009,[7] Further diagonal crossings were constructed in Wood Green in 2010 and Wimbledon in 2012.

Swansea opened a diagonal crossing in 2015.

Harrogate also opened a diagonal crossing in 2015. Since opening, some have criticized it for being too confusing and claim that its poor design led to the death of an elderly pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle in its first year of operation.[citation needed]

In the United States[edit]

Sign for a pedestrian scramble in the United States

Kansas City was one of the first cities that used a pedestrian scramble system (at a few individual locations only).[1]

Denver formerly used the pedestrian scramble system at nearly every intersection in the downtown business district. The practice was eliminated on 11 April 2011, in order to "balance" resources allotted to pedestrians, vehicles, and mass transit. Complete stops of traffic from all directions will still occur but the diagonal crossing characteristic of the Barnes dance will no longer be legal.[8][9]

In Washington, D.C., diagonal crossing existed at several downtown intersections until the mid-1980s. It is being tried again on an experimental basis at 7th and H streets Northwest beginning May 2010.[10]

In New Haven, all of the intersections with traffic lights have implemented the pedestrian scramble, since at least 1974.

In New York City, there are numerous signals with a pedestrian scramble phase; those are most often found in intersections with only one vehicle phase.[11] A notable pedestrian scramble exists in Lower Manhattan at the intersection of Vesey Street, Broadway, Park Row, and Ann Street.[12]

Signals at several intersections in Pittsburgh, including along Craig Street at Centre Avenue, Bayard Street, Fifth Avenue, and Forbes Avenue near the University of Pittsburgh; on Forbes at Morewood Street at the main entrance to Carnegie Mellon University; and on Forbes at Murray and Shady Avenues in Squirrel Hill stop traffic from all directions and allow pedestrians to cross in all directions. They are not, however, specially signed as in the Seattle example below; they use a standard pedestrian crossing light (with added audio signal for the visually impaired).

The signal at the intersection of McKinley and Riverside Avenues on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is called the "Scramble Light" and is identified by the university as a campus landmark.[13]

Ohio University in Athens, OH has numerous legal diagonal crosswalks in use around campus, as well as some through uptown.

Some pedestrian scrambles are implemented only temporarily, during times when extremely high pedestrian traffic is expected. A notable example of this occurs on home-game Saturdays at the intersection of Main Street and Stadium Boulevard in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is immediately adjacent to Michigan Stadium. Local police take control of the vehicular signals and indicate the pedestrian phase by playing Michigan's fight song, "The Victors."

On May 31, 2013, Chicago began testing a pedestrian scramble on the intersection of State Street and Jackson Boulevard.[14]

In Nevada, both Reno and Sparks have pedestrian scramble interchanges. Reno's is at the intersection of Virginia and 2nd Avenue downtown to accommodate casino pedestrian traffic, and Sparks' are along Victorian Avenue to assist people in crossing to festivals that are held along that street.

Seattle uses the pedestrian scramble at 1st and Pike, 1st and University, 1st and Cherry, Beacon and 15th, 15th Ave NE and NE 40th St, and at the West Seattle Junction. The intersections are marked with a sign labeled "All Way Walk."[15] Bellevue, Washington also has one at 108th Ave NE and the NE 6th Street pedestrian walkway, on the west side of Bellevue Transit Center. It is not signed as an all-way walk, but has pedestrian walk lights, and is accompanied by an auditory alert of "Walk sign is on for all crossings."

San Francisco has several pedestrian scrambles along Stockton Street in Chinatown, Montgomery Street in the Financial District, and in several other locations.[16]

In Los Angeles County, pedestrian scrambles are used in the Rodeo Drive commercial area of Beverly Hills, at the intersection of Westwood Boulevard and Le Conte Avenue as well as Weyburn and Broxton Avenues in the Westwood section of Los Angeles immediately adjacent to the UCLA campus, and at the intersection of Jefferson Boulevard and McClintock Avenue near the University of Southern California, as well as in Pasadena at the intersection of Raymond and Colorado.

In San Diego, One of the locations that uses pedestrian scrambles is at the intersection of Market St & 5th Ave.

The City of El Paso, Texas added pedestrian scramble markings to the intersection of Santa Fe Street and Main Drive in Downtown in April 2015.

In Portland, Oregon, a pedestrian scramble was added in November 2015 to the intersection of NW 11th Ave and NW Couch St, near Powell's Books.[17]

The campus of UC Davis recently installed a bike/pedestrian scramble near its recreation center.

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

Since it stops all motor vehicles rather than allowing partial vehicle movements to coexist with partial pedestrian movements, the pedestrian scramble has sometimes been seen as inefficient by traffic engineers, with its removal believed as creating big savings in delays and congestion. An advantage is that it eliminates pedestrians from flowing through the crosswalks moving in the direction of the moving traffic allowing car traffic to make left or right turns without being blocked by pedestrians in the crosswalk. By eliminating the car/crosswalk problem traffic often can flow faster. Proper implementation requires that both drivers and pedestrians are aware of the traffic rules at such intersections. In some countries, that has led to a removal of at least individual installations. However, critics have dismissed these moves as further subordinating pedestrians to cars and consider the shared turns of motor vehicles and pedestrians as unnecessarily intimidating.[2]

The pedestrian scramble makes sense only if large numbers of pedestrians are expected, and they will also have enough space to gather on the sidewalks in larger numbers.[18] Under certain circumstances, pedestrian scrambles could decrease safety, as the average waiting times for pedestrians and car drivers are increased, thus creating more likelihood of people disobeying the signals.[19]

Further research at Transport for London has suggested the installation of a diagonal crossing can reduce pedestrian casualties by 38%.

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Where was the First Walk/Don't Walk Sign Installed? Addendum: The Barnes Dance". Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Rudman's city: Car-crazy engineers set on banning the Barnes dance". The New Zealand Herald. 8 August 2001. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Today In History, 21 August". New Zealand History. New Zealand History online. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  4. ^ "Highway History: The Barnes Dance". U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. 
  5. ^ Spears, John (28 August 2008). "Pedestrians first at Yonge and Dundas". The Star. Toronto. 
  6. ^ Murray Buechner, Maryanne. "Tokyo: 10 Things To Do". Time: Travel. 
  7. ^ Oxford Circus 'X-crossing' opens
  8. ^ Meyer, Jeremy P. (6 April 2011). "Denver to eliminate diagonal crossings at intersections "Barnes Dance" to end". The Denver Post. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  9. ^ Stanley, Deb (11 April 2011). "Denver Eliminates Diagonal Crosswalks Today". KMGH Denver. Retrieved 28 March 2012. 
  10. ^ 'Barnes dance' crossing unveiled near Verizon
  11. ^ Exclusive Pedestrian Signals
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Scramble Light". Ball State University. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  14. ^ Hilkevitch, Jon (31 May 2013). "Loop intersection begins test of 'pedestrian scramble'". Chicago Tribune. Tribune Company. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  15. ^ Ellwanger, Jim (5 June 2011). Illustration of claustrophobia. Downtown Seattle: Flickr. Retrieved 2012-04-04. 
  16. ^ "11 January 2008 Working Draft San Francisco PedSafe Phase II Final Report and Executive Summary". Federal Highway Administration. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  17. ^ "New signals on Couch at Broadway and first-ever 'pedestrian scramble' are up and running". Bike Portland. Retrieved 24 November 2015. 
  18. ^ "Hall Monitor: A new way to cross the street – diagonally". National Post Toronto: Posted Toronto. 23 July 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 
  19. ^ Bechtel, Allyson K. "Oakland Chinatown Pedestrian Scramble". University of California Traffic Safety Center. Retrieved 6 July 2010. 

External links[edit]