Government Law

Will 'pedestrian scramble' make it safer to cross downtown Chicago intersection?

As anyone who walks or drives in downtown Chicago knows, crossing the street, even in a crosswalk on a walk signal, can be a hazardous activity, as motorists—particularly when making a turn—frequently don’t yield the right or way.

Meanwhile, a frustration for drivers is the many pedestrians who don’t hesitate to stroll across the street against the light at any point on the block, regardless of oncoming traffic.

A new experimental approach to the problem, unofficially known as the “pedestrian scramble,” made its debut Friday at the busy intersection of State Street and Jackson Boulevard. It features not only the usual rectangle of crosswalks but an additional X shape of diagonal crosswalks that officially allows pedestrians to cross directly to the farthest-distant corner, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Every third light cycle, the new approach also stops traffic in all direction for 35 seconds to give pedestrians a head start across the street (hence the “scramble”).

Some pedestrians cheered as the experiment began at 10:17 a.m. today. But not everyone was convinced that the concept will work in practice.

“How many ambulances will be here today?” wondered paralegal Beverly Hadley, who was on foot at the intersection.

“People will get confused,” she predicted. “My concern is the drivers more than the people crossing. I know it works well on paper and in Europe, so we’ll just have to see.”

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