The scramble crosswalk at the intersection of Pine Ave. and 4th Street. Photos by Jason Ruiz.
Pine Avenue has become the hub of the city's scramble crosswalk implementation, so to better help residents and visitors to Downtown better understand how they actually work, First District Councilwoman Lena Gonzalez is hosting a demonstration for the public next Tuesday.
The councilwoman will be joined April 28 at 10AM by traffic engineers from the city at the newly painted scramble crosswalk at the intersection of Pine and 4th Street where she will exhibit proper scramble crosswalk technique.
“Pine Avenue is going through a major renaissance and these new crosswalks will focus on encouraging more pedestrian friendly streets in the First District,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
The scramble crosswalk, also known as a pedestrian scramble or diagonal crossing, was first introduced to the United States and Canada in the 1940s. They allow for pedestrian crossings in all directions, including diagonal, while motorist traffic is stopped, providing an added measure of safety in an effort to reduce pedestrian-vehicle collisions while at the same time promoting walkable cities.
The crossings have also been referred to as Barnes Dances, an ode to Henry Barnes, a traffic engineer from Colorado and strong advocate for the scramble crosswalks who introduced the crossings to Denver. The term was was coined because the crossings, which prioritize pedestrian traffic over automobile traffic, had the people so happy “they were dancing in the streets.”
Gonzalez said that the demonstration will be beneficial to community because the scramble crosswalks are a fairly new concept that needs a refresher course and because the new additions on Pine can promote more pedestrian traffic in Downtown.
“It’s important because people need to learn how to use them safely,” Gonzalez said. “It also highlights pedestrian safety and a new walking experience for the downtown district. It’s an old but new concept in this era and we have a variety of pedestrians including older adults who have accessibility issues and may not be used to the idea of scramble crosswalks.”
Scramble crosswalks have been shown in studies to be safer for pedestrian traffic because they stop motorists in all directions and allow for traffic-free crossing of the streets where they’re present. Collisions in some cities dropped by nearly half after the installation of the special crosswalks. However, they also force motorists to sit for longer periods at lights which has led to some resentment and backlash in the past, moving many cities to remove them shortly after installing them.
The demonstration will take place at one of three that will ultimately exist on Pine, a second one is already in place at the 5th Street intersection and third scramble crosswalk is scheduled to be painted at Pine and 1st Street. The city installed a pedestrian scramble in Belmont Shore at the beginning of March the first such crosswalk to be built in the city in decades.
While there are no further plans on deck for the city to add anymore scramble crosswalks, Gonzalez said that if they do, Pine Avenue’s history and foot traffic would make it a great place to continue.
“The importance is that we are trying to highlight and improve pedestrian safety and walk-ways,” Gonzalez said. “As a city we are working to make Pine more pedestrian active and this will certainly add to our urban sophistication.”
[Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story attributed quotes to Councilwoman Gonzalez Chief of Staff Silissa Smith, they were correspondences from Gonzalez through Smith]