Where pedestrians are kings of the road: 5 scramble crossings from around the world

Pedestrians crossing at the junction of Orchard Link and Orchard Road, on April 13, 2017.
Pedestrians crossing at the junction of Orchard Link and Orchard Road, on April 13, 2017. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Be it for a casual walk to admire the Christmas decorations, or a hunt for restaurants and cafes to fill growling stomachs, Orchard Road is the go-to place for Singaporeans and tourists alike.

As part of bold plans to transform the precinct into a distinctive shopping and lifestyle destination, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Land Transport Authority are working with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, to make Orchard Road more pedestrian-friendly.

The goal is for the intersection at the busy thoroughfare to be developed into a scramble crossing, to make it easier for pedestrians to move about.

Here are five countries where scramble crossing has been implemented.

1. Tokyo, Japan


Pedestrians cross an intersection in the Shibuya district of Tokyo, Japan, on Friday, March 31, 2017. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Famously known for being featured in The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the Shibuya Crossing outside Shibuya Station is on every tourist's itinerary when they visit Tokyo.

Surrounded by boutiques and gourmet eateries, the crowded junction has been said to be the busiest intersection in the world. During peak times, over 1,000 people could be crossing simultaneously from all directions, when traffic stops and the lights flash green.

Despite the overwhelming number of pedestrians, everyone crosses the intersection in an orderly manner. If you are lucky enough to get a seat facing the Shibuya Crossing on the second-story of the Starbucks in the Tsutaya building, you would be able to see the organised chaos unfold.

2. New York, the United States


People walk through a busy midtown Manhattan intersection in New York City, on March 30, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

New York City once held a handful of scramble crossings, but it has now dwindled down to just one: the intersection where Broadway meets Vesey Street, Park Row and Ann Street in Lower Manhattan.

Scramble crossing is more commonly known as Barnes Dance to Americans. It was named after traffic engineer Henry Barnes, who served as a street commissioner for cities including Denver, Baltimore and New York in the mid-20th century.

If you ever get the chance to visit this notable Barnes Dance, go ahead and do the tango as you cross the busy intersection.

3. Oxford Circus, London


Pedestrians cross the road in London, U.K., on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

The £5 million (S$8.8 million) intersection was opened in 2009, with over 200 million visitors a year.

The X-crossing with the X Factor has increased road space for pedestrians by 70 per cent and has contributed to a 7 per cent rise in annual sales. However, some say shopping on London’s busy Oxford Street is not only bad for your wallet, but also for your health.

Oxford Street is one of the most polluted streets in the world, with more than 270 buses passing through it every day. The air pollution is so drastic, that its level of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) reaches beyond-safe levels for the entire year.

To ease the problem, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in July 2016 that Oxford Street will become pedestrianised by 2020.

Apart from taxis, cars have already been banned from most of Oxford Street between 7am and 7pm, every day except for Sundays.

But if all modes of vehicles are banned in the next four years, will the scramble crossing at Oxford Circus cease to exist one day?

4. Brisbane, Australia


Pedestrians waiting to cross the road at a busy intersection in Brisbane, Australia. PHOTO: BRISBANE TIMES

One of the two noteworthy scramble crossings in Brisbane is located in the central business district at the intersection of Adelaide and Edward Streets, adjacent to the Queen Street Mall and an entrance to Translink’s Central Station.

In 2008, the intersection was named one of Queensland’s 20 worst crossings and the only one in the inner-city. Out of the 19 accidents that happened between 2002 and 2008, 15 of them were caused by pedestrians who blatantly ignored traffic signals.

People who have worked in the vicinity have even dragged fellow pedestrians back by their arms, before a possible collision with an oncoming vehicle.

5. Ontario, Canada


Pedestrians cross the road at Kingston, Ontario. PHOTO: KINGSTON NEWS

In efforts to increase the safety of Queen’s University students, a scramble crosswalk was introduced in 2015 at the corners of Union Street and University Avenue, at Kingston, Ontario.

About a thousand people, mostly students, walk through the University-Union intersection every hour during peak class times. The demand for a scramble crosswalk came after students were seen jaywalking across the busy streets while rushing to classes.

To further enhance pedestrian safety, vehicles are not allowed to make a right turn on a red light at any time at this intersection.

SOURCES: TIME, Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, CityLab, Los Angeles Times, Londonist, BBC, Daily Mail, Brisbane Times, City of Kingston, Queen's Gazette.