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What is a Pedestrian Scramble?

pedestrian scramble

In large cities such as Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville, pedestrian movement can be extremely dense. In downtown areas, there could be hundreds of pedestrians within a one-block radius, all walking to work, school, home, a restaurant, or other locations. High volumes of pedestrians can lead to some dangerous situations when vehicle movement gets involved. Intersections can be backed up, people may j-walk to avoid waiting for a light to change, and drivers have to watch out for both vehicles and people as they move through the streets.

Handling pedestrian movement is an important aspect of the infrastructure in any large city. It is not always simple to promote pedestrian safety while also optimizing automobile traffic so that motorists are not stuck in gridlock for hours on end. Cities also don’t want pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk forever. At busy intersections, finding ways to allow pedestrians to safely cross, especially during rush hour, is a top priority for urban governments.

Pedestrian Scramble

At a typical four-way intersection, there is a crosswalk across each road that together form a square for pedestrians to cross the intersection when the walk signal dictates that they can. When cars from one or two directions have a green light, a walk signal will light up for a different roadway at the intersection that helps pedestrians avoid oncoming traffic. Depending on which corner people are standing on will determine whose turn it is to cross the intersection using the crosswalk.

A pedestrian scramble, also known as a Barnes Dance, works a little bit differently to keep pedestrians safe as they navigate the intersections of a busy city.

How Pedestrian Traffic is Fixed by a “Scramble” Crossing

This type of crossing is being implemented in several locations across Tennessee cities, with the first having been recently installed in Nashville. Essentially, it is exactly what the name implies…a full-on scramble of pedestrians who cross a busy intersection, (though under more control than the word “scramble” suggests).

In addition to the four crosswalks of a typical four-way intersection, pedestrian scrambles add diagonal crosswalks as well. This allows pedestrians to make a diagonal crossing when it is their turn to walk instead of having to cross two streets to get to the diagonal corner. How would diagonal crosswalks work if cars are supposed to move through the intersection?

This is where the scramble aspect enters the picture. Instead of vehicle traffic always having a few lanes moving depending on the lights, a pedestrian scramble uses the signals to make sure all cars are stopped. At this point, an all-encompassing walk signal would light up, allowing all pedestrians to cross the intersection, no matter which direction they are attempting to go. With no cars turning or coming from all directions, the pedestrian movement reaches a heavy flow and everyone gets to cross at the same time.

Pedestrian scramble intersections handle the buildup of people more efficiently by dedicating an entire light cycle to just a walk signal. Since car traffic is stopped completely on every road, the potential for turning vehicles to hit pedestrians is avoided.

The Benefit to Motorists

Not only does a scramble allow pedestrians to cross intersections safely and quickly to prevent build-up, but it also creates a more fast-moving street for vehicles. There is decreasing uncertainty about when people may cross and if your turning action could lead to serious injuries for crossers. Instead of having to see which corner of pedestrians will be entering the crosswalk, you can know that none of them will move until the next cycle of the walk signal begins. The crosswalk will remain clear until that time.

Vehicle traffic laws often give the right of way to pedestrians in the crosswalk if you are making a right turn, but a scramble intersection means that when your traffic light is green, or you are turning right on red legally, then the intersection will be clear.

Why Pedestrian Scrambles Are Showing Up in Nashville

Public Works Director Mark Macy spoke about the installation of pedestrian scrambles at busy intersections in Nashville.

“Minimizing areas of potential conflict between pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicular traffic increases safety, and this is our priority,” said Macy in 2016. The idea is that the walk signal and traffic light at an intersection if followed by everyone, will make travel through an urban area for all parties more efficient.

Obeying Traffic Lights and the Walk Sign

These types of crosswalks only work if everyone is obeying the signals that apply to them. Pedestrians should not attempt to cross unless the walk signal is lit up. Similarly, no vehicles should move through the intersection when the pedestrian scramble is happening. If all parties work together to follow the pedestrian and vehicle traffic laws, then traffic-related injuries will decrease and people will get to their destinations sooner.

There is still a walk button that you can press to initiate a walking cycle for pedestrians, but it is no longer dependent on which crosswalk the person is trying to use. A full light cycle will be dedicated exclusively to opening every crosswalk at once.

The Learning Curve

Since the pedestrian scramble intersection is a relatively new concept in the state of Tennessee, there will be a little bit of a learning curve as people try to navigate this new pattern. Although it helps pedestrian accidents be minimized, they may not be completely avoided if motorists or walking individuals do not understand the concept.

Obey the traffic signals as a driver and cross the intersection only when signaled if you are walking.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney for Pedestrian Accidents

Even though a pedestrian scramble is designed to increase pedestrian safety, accidents will likely continue to happen when people use the crosswalk. Whether you are the person walking or the driver of the vehicle involved, Mitch Grissim & Associates can help with your case.

Call Us Today

Call our office today at 615-255-9999 to get a free consultation about your pedestrian accident claim so we can discuss your case and analyze potential damages for which you could pursue compensation.

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