Pedestrian scrambles good for traffic safety

I had the pleasure of visiting Banff, Alberta as a tourist this spring.

I had the pleasure of visiting Banff, Alberta as a tourist this spring.

The downtown area of the city has been remade with pedestrians in mind. The sidewalks are wide, speed limits are reduced and the three pedestrian scrambles move a lot of people more safely than the conventional intersection. Clearly, pedestrians are a welcome part of traffic in the core area.

By now you are probably wondering what a pedestrian scramble is. Rather than operate the intersection signals as we have come to expect, alternating traffic (including pedestrians) through and across the intersection, Banff’s scramble stops all vehicles for one phase of the traffic lights and allows pedestrians to cross both perpendicularly and diagonally in all directions. In effect, control of the intersection is turned over to pedestrians instead of focusing on moving motor vehicles as a priority.

Probably the biggest advantage of the pedestrian scramble is the reduction of conflict. During the scramble phase, only pedestrians are moving and all vehicles must stop. Otherwise, only vehicles move and drivers no longer have to worry about pedestrians while making turns. To me, this is a fair exchange. Having to wait a little longer for pedestrians is traded for faster and safer flow on turns.

However you choose to cross the street, use a crosswalk, follow the signals, stop, look both ways, hold hands and yield to motor vehicles. Remember that right-of-way is given, not demanded.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit