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Chicago Experimenting With the “Pedestrian Scramble”

10:57 AM EDT on June 23, 2011

We’ve been watching with interest the early days of the Emanuel-Klein administration. Transportation-wise, this team seems to be intent on moving Chicago forward a few decades in a few months’ time.

This intersection in Chicago's Wick Park neighborhood is the city's testing ground for a "pedestrian scramble." Photo: Steve Vance

Well, it’s been barely two weeks since we checked in on the Windy City, and they’re still building on the remarkable progress from earlier this month.

Grid Chicago, a new blog by Steven Vance and John Greenfield, is reporting that Klein is considering the “pedestrian scramble,” also known as the Barnes Dance. This crosswalk innovation stops traffic in all directions, allowing pedestrians to cross from one corner of an intersection to any other corner. Vance offered this account:

“It’s something we would be interested in piloting at the busiest intersections,” Klein said [last week in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times].

Gabe Klein’s not the first to bring it up this year. The students of “Living in a Smart City” at the School of the Art Institute (SAIC) proposed such an upgrade in March for the Milwaukee-North-Damen intersection, the heart of Wicker Park – and quite busy. You can watch a video of their demonstration model at 2:18.

A pedestrian scramble should be tested at this intersection soon. Wicker Park visitors are already treating this intersection as if it had one; their situation can be improved by matching the infrastructure to the activity. What will be interesting to observe is how people bicycling will treat the signal phase. They will be expected to stop (all vehicle traffic) but it may be a ripe opportunity for many bicyclists to make their turns during this phase. This situation is especially relevant because of the insane amount of bicycle traffic here.

Vance is asking readers what other Chicago intersections might be a great fit for this type of improvement.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Urban Milwaukee reports that this lakeside city is the latest in the Midwest to examine two-way street conversions as a way to improve pedestrian safety. I Bike TO says Toronto cyclists are rallying to save two bike lanes proposed for removal by Mayor Rob Ford. And M-Bike.org remarks that organized cycling rides are seeing explosive growth in Detroit, attracting as many as 3,200 riders.

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