Are you ready to do the pedestrian scramble?

Scramble crossing signalIf you’ve been downtown lately, you might have noticed several intersections where pedestrians can cross in all directions (including diagonally) at once, a la the famous Shibuya crossing in Tokyo.┬á The City of San Antonio is installing these crossings, known colloquially as “pedestrian scrambles” or “Barnes Dances” (or more┬áboringly┬áby their technical┬áname of “exclusive pedestrian phasing”),┬áas an experiment to see if they improve both pedestrian and vehicular traffic downtown.┬á During a recent jaunt downtown, I counted 14 intersections outfitted with the equipment for pedestrian scrambles (that being a third pedestrian crossing signal on each corner┬áoriented diagonally across the intersection), with half of them actually in service.

For years, I have hoped that the city would install these.┬á They eliminate the problem of having to wait for pedestrians to clear when making turns.┬á When pedestrian traffic is heavy, that severely inhibits the number of vehicles that can make a turn while the light is green.┬á Add to that the fact that most people don’t know that it’s perfectly legal to make a left on red when both streets are one way and sometimes it can take several signal cycles to make a turn at some intersections.

Pedestrian scrambles eliminate this problem because pedestrians┬áonly have a┬á“walk” sign during their exclusive phase or if their crossing does not interfere with turning traffic.┬á The rest of the time they have a “don’t walk” sign, even if the signal for parallel vehicular traffic is green.┬á Because it removes that conflict, it also improves safety for pedestrians.┬á In fact, one study showed a 50% reduction in pedestrian/motor vehicle accidents.

Unfortunately, during my last trip downtown, the three intersections that I think especially need this system didn’t have it yet– the three intersections around Convention Plaza (the triangle around the big orange “Torch of Friendship” statue.)┬á That right turn from Commerce to Alamo and the right turn from Lasoya to Commerce can be a real pain due to pedestrian volumes at those crossings.┬á Hopefully those intersections will get this badly needed improvement soon.

In the meantime, here are the intersections that were active last week:

  • Commerce/Flores
  • Flores/Nueva
  • Houston/Navarro
  • Houston/St. Mary’s
  • Travis/St. Mary’s
  • Travis/Navarro
  • St. Mary’s/College

The following had the equipment installed but were not active yet:

  • Flores/Dolorosa
  • St. Mary’s/Market
  • Market/Navarro
  • Market/Presa
  • Commerce/Presa
  • Commerce/Navarro
  • Commerce/St. Mary’s

UPDATE: Found two more locations on 2/8/10 that were probably there earlier but I just missed them:

  • Navarro/Crocket
  • Navarro/College

UPDATE: Pedestrian scramble update

Links:

 

Scramble crossing at Commerce and Flores

Scramble crossing at Commerce and Flores

 

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