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Pedestrian Scrambles May Come to Downtown

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 13, 2011 2:00PM

When we were in Denver last year for the Great American Beer Festival we were reminded of the mad dash that is the pedestrian scramble, aka "diagonal crossing." But we soon embraced it and were legally jaywalking throughout the Mile High City.

Pedestrian scrambles, which originated in Denver, are among the innovations new Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein is considering to make pedestrian traffic downtown less hazardous.

Klein, who expanded Washington, DC's bike sharing program and trolley system while he was transportation chief there, said that diagonal crossings - where vehicular traffic is stopped for a longer period of time to give pedestrians a head start - are among the many options the city is considering to make some of the most dangerous intersections downtown safer for foot traffic.

“We’d like to put in leading pedestrian intervals at over 100 intersections, particularly the most dangerous. As soon as the light turns green, cars hit the gas. This way, the light stays red and the pedestrian countdown will start three-to-five seconds before the light for traffic turns green.”

Some intersections throughout the city already have that in effect: Clark and Addison Streets come to mind. Klein and his department is also considering adding 3-5 second head starts to pedestrian traffic downtown, decreasing the number of streets where it's legal to turn right or left on red lights, narrower streets and slower speed limits.

Klein's proposals can be seen as a sea change over the seeming war on pedestrian traffic that occurred during the previous administration. In 2004, then-head of the City Office of Emergency Management Andrew Velasquez proposed empowering traffic control aides with ticketing pedestrians who crossed the street against the crosswalk or within the crosswalk, but against the light.

Also expect an increase in educating pedestrians and bicyclists in the rules of the road, similar to the crackdown that happened last week near the Blommer Chocolate plant.