Pedestrian scramble designation

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Pedestrian scrambles are formed when three or more crosswalks connect to create an interior pedestrian-only crossing area. The designation requires all vehicles to stop at the same time, which allows pedestrians within the space to cross in any direction they please rather than between adjacent streets only. Operating much like a traditional crosswalk, pedestrian scrambles depend on traffic signals to separate when vehicles and pedestrians may use the intersection. Bicyclists play different roles in different cities: in some, they are subject to the same laws as automobiles while using the intersection; in others, they may dismount and use the intersection as a pedestrian.

The technique has been given a number of different names, including but not limited to: diagonal crosswalk, Barnes Dance, x crossing, scramble intersection or scramble crossing, pedestrian priority crossing, and exclusive pedestrian phasing. In the United States, pedestrian scramble, Barnes dance, and exclusive pedestrian phasing are most popular.







A city has a particularly popular four-way intersection in a mixed-use commercial area. The attractiveness of uses generates both automobile and pedestrian traffic as people shop, eat, and commute, and the two are often in conflict with each other. Traffic gridlock and poorly timed pedestrian crosswalks frustrate users, occasionally leading to crashes. As a result, the city transportation authority decides to better manage how people travel within the space. After studying use patterns, the authority reprograms traffic signals to stop all vehicular travel at once. At this time, pedestrians are allowed to move throughout the intersection however they please. In congested areas, appropriate timing of these lights will increase safety and decrease travel time for both pedestrians and automobiles.



Tradeoffs of implementing this policy may include:

  1. Increased vehicular congestion.
  2. Increased vehicular delay and costs.
  3. Creation of real and perceived bottlenecks for both vehicles and pedestrians.
  4. Decreased ability to synchronize surrounding traffic signals.
  5. Confusion of vehicles and pedestrians at adoption.
  6. Confusion for bicyclists as "intermediate" users.
  7. Activated only by passive sensors or active pedestrian interaction with sensors, contributing to;
  8. Confusion and inaccessibility for pedestrians with disabilities, particularly those who are blind.
  9. Potential of increased wait times for pedestrians and contribution to additional pedestrians crossing against the signal.
  10. Additional signage likely.
Compatibility Assessment

Compatibility Assessment.png

If answered yes, the following questions indicate superior conditions under which the policy is more likely to be appropriate:

  1. Is there a dense, mixed-use portion of the city where there is significant pedestrian and vehicular traffic?
  2. Do the traffic conditions contribute to crashes between automobiles and between automobiles and people?
  3. Is there an intersection or intersections in particular where pedestrian use exceeds vehicular use?
  4. Does this intersection threaten pedestrian safety (particularly due to high-volume and/or high-speed vehicles)?
  5. Are there opportunities for vehicles to reach their destination by other routes or modes of travel?
  6. Does the intersection already use traffic signals?
  7. Is the city already pedestrian friendly and walkable?
  8. Is the intersection generally "regular" (lacking islands, etc.)?


The following questions should be considered when determining how to implement this policy:

  1. What is an appropriate length and wait time for exclusive pedestrian phases?
  2. How will violations be punished?
  3. How will bicyclists be classified? In some cities, they are legally held to the same standards as automobiles, while in other they may move between the modes.
  4. Can the intersections be used strategically for economic development and improved access to transit?
  5. What can be done to accommodate persons with disabilities?
  6. Is it necessary to improve or create other aspects of the surrounding pedestrian realm when the scramble is created?
  7. Can anything be done to mitigate the likely vehicular congestion?




The use of pedestrian scrambles in the United States was most popular in the 1970s, and many have since been removed from some of the cities in which they were most numerous. In very recent years, more progressive, sustainable, and dense cities have again begun to propose and implement them. Sustained popularity is most common in Asia and Europe.

  • For governance level(s): Local.

Although the designation is implemented at the local level, state and national governmental leadership is appropriate for conducting further research and establishing universal street requirements.










  • Pedestrian Scramble Operations. Kattan, L., Acharjee, S., & Tay, R. (2009). Pedestrian scramble operations: Pilot study in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2140, 79-84. doi: 10.3141/2140-08. Study that evaluates a pedestrian scramble project in Calgary to understand the practice's effect on pedestrian safety.
  • Safety Effects of Exclusive and Concurrent Signal Phasing for Pedestrian Crossing. Zhang, Y., Mamun, S., Ivan, J., Ravishanker, N. & Haque, K. (2015). Safety effects of exclusive and concurrent signal phasing for pedestrian crossing. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 83, 26-36. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2015.06.010. Paper that estimates and predicts pedestrian crash count and severity for concurrent and exclusive pedestrian phasing in Connecticut.
  • The Relative Effectiveness of Signal Related Pedestrian Countermeasures at Urban Intersections. Chen, L., Chen, C., & Ewing, R. (2014). The relative effectiveness of signal related pedestrian countermeasures at urban intersections - Lessons from a New York City case study. Transport Policy, 32, 69-78. doi:10.1016/j.tranpol.2013.12.006. Study that evaluates pedestrian scrambles in comparison with three other forms of signal-related pedestrian countermeasures in New York City.
  • Optimization of Pedestrian Phase Patterns and Signal Timings for Isolated Intersection. Wanjing, M., Dabin, L., Yue, L., Hong Kam, L. (2013). Optimization of pedestrian phase patterns and signal timings for isolated intersection. Transport Research Part C: Emerging Technologies, 58, 502-514. doi:10.1016/j.trc.2014.08.023. Paper that uses economic trade-offs as ways of representing safety and efficiency between the exclusive pedestrian phase and the two-way crossing.
  • The Impact of Waiting Time and Other Factors on Dangerous Pedestrian Crossings and Violations at Signalized Intersections. Wanjing, M., Dabin, L., Yue, L., Hong Kam, L. (2013). The impact of waiting time and other factors on dangerous pedestrian crossings and violations at signalized intersections: A case study in Montreal. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior, 21, 159-172. doi:10.1016/j.trf.2013.09.010. Study that seeks to determine the ways in which pedestrian waiting time and signal phasing at intersections influences crossing violations and safety.


  • Pedestrian Safety - Report to Congress. A guide providing descriptions and considerations for different technologies to reduce crashes. Section entitled Signalized Intersection Crossing - Pedestrians Struck by Turning Vehicles: Exclusive Pedestrian Phasing is relevant. Authored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
  • Knuckey Street Scramble Crossings Factsheet. A factsheet based on the establishment of scramble crossings in the specific city of Darwin, but useful for universal facts. Authored by the City of Darwin.
  • Pedestrian Scramble Crossings - A Tale of Two Cities. A paper discussing different approaches to pedestrian scramble crossings, as exemplified by Toronto and Calgary. Authored by Rajnath Bissessar and Craig Tonder.
  • Scramble Pedestrian Crossings. A guideline for a uniform approach to creating and managing pedestrian scrambles. Authored by the Government of South Australia's Department for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure.
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