A Scramble intersection in Steveston (Richmond)

December 19, 2011

The scramble intersection has been officially opened with much fanfare on November 15th, by Mayor Malcolm Brodie [3]

The pedestrian scramble sit at Moncton and Number 1 intersection, in Steveston

But, the real story is not so much the pedestrian scramble than the new traffic light which will have certainly consummed the bulk of the $600,000 budget allocated to this intersection “improvement[1].

The good

  • It is a raised intersection, usually signalling to the motorist it is entering in a pedestrian oriented environment
  • The treatment of the crosswalks and bollards shows careful attention intended to rise the profile of this intersection

Good attention has been given to some details. Notice the ropes as the main theme for the treatment of the improvments

The Bad

  • Not much consideration has been given to Wheelchairs and strollers, and the implementation of the traffic signals impedes seriously their movement on the sidewalk
  • The opportunity to improve the pedestrian experience, this by installing bulges, narrowing the roadway has not been taken.
  • When come the signal to reduce the motorist "confusion", all the good intentions are lost, and here it is basically not really possible for a wheelchair to stay on the sidewalk (left picture). The pedestrian realm could have extended on the parking lane (using a bulge): it didn't (right)

    The real story
    Before the traffic light, and its adjoined pedestrian scramble, it was a 4 ways stop:

    • both pedestrian and vehicular traffic could become fairly heavy in some summers week-end, but nothing comparable to what we can witness in Granville Island at anytime.
    • And like in Granville Island, most of the vehicular traffic is generated by parking lookers, and so most of the traffic is turning either right or left at the intersection…

    The consequence of the last observation is that right and left turn traffic can be impeded by the pedestrian traffic…The Richmond traffic engineers will have found, that blocking all pedestrians movement during vehicular movement was the best thing to do…and here is the rational for the scramble.

    It is sold to the public as follow: The previous configuration (4 ways stop), where politeness’rules applied (i.e. like in Granville island), was judged “confusing” by the Richmond traffic engineers [1].


    If you believe that the lack of rules for pedestrian is creating congestion in Granville and makes it unsafe, you will cheer for the Richmond’s “traffic improvement” as a step in the right direction.

    …On the other side, if you believe in the shared space concept followed by a growing number of European towns, noticeably because “When you don’t exactly know who has right of way, you tend to seek eye contact with other road users” and “You automatically reduce your speed, you have contact with other people and you take greater care[2], you will eventualy consider that the roadwork at Number 1 and Moncton, is much closer to a 600K waste than an improvement…

    [1] No.1 Road and Moncton Street Intersection and Surrounding pedestrian crosswalk improvments Victor Wei, Transportation department, April 21, 2011, Richmond CA. Notice that this lst reference states that “based on the pedestrians and vehicles traffic volumes, a a traffic signal is warranted at this intersection” without substanciating those “volumes”. A reference is done to a mysterious study (Stevenson Village Traffic and parking improvement, Victor Wei, Transportation department, August 31, 2009) which didn’t provide any substance either.
    Pedestrian Crosswalk Improvement Project, Communication from Richmond CityHall, 2011.

    [2]European Towns Remove Traffic Signs to Make Streets Safer, Deutsche Welle, August 27, 2006

    [3] Beside numerous news report, there is generally a strong advocacy for scramble interest in some circle, like at vpsn, and, eventually via spacing Vancouver, you will find some opinion in the Vancouver Openfile blog (which in our viewpoint is misleaded by the fact it seems to fail to make the difference between Yonge and Dundas in Toronto center and the “Steveston village” context in Richmond) or InSteveston and a more critical appreciation by a Richmond’s blogger



    4 Responses to “A Scramble intersection in Steveston (Richmond)”

    1. rico Says:

      It has been too long since I have been to Steveston to recall that intersection but I have used scrabble intersections in busy ‘downtown’ type scenarios before and I found them effective. In my mind they should be for high volume pedestrian crossings. Thanks for the write up.

    2. afeltham Says:

      How do they deal with the right turn on red situation? Are these forbidden in a scramble? if so how is this indicated to the drivers who are used to turning right on red, often without even stopping?

    3. JKKT Says:

      Sitting on the Red Robin on Thurlow and Robson in Vancouver, it seems like peds and people in cars and people in buses and people on bikes and people in strollers can all benefit if a scramble is put there.
      1) Right, and Left turning cars get stuck by people, and can’t turn until there is a break in the pedestrian flow (usually at a yellow light).
      2) Because of this, Buses get stuck behind the right and left turning cars, and have to wait at least 2 lights to cross.
      3) The actual number/volume of cars that go through the intersection per cycle is only about 10 cars, so if peds didn’t block the cars, the car cycle length only needs to be about 15 seconds at most.
      4) Which means… that if a pedestrian scramble was put in, the cycle would be N/S 15 secs, E/W 10 secs, Peds 30 secs, one cycle ~ 1min, with better transit flows (the bus only now needs to wait one cycle), less car/ ped interaction= safer street. Also, the lines in the middle of the road will defiantly cause confusion to motorists and slow them down.

    4. Voony Says:

      right turn on red is prohibited at the Richmond’s Scramble intersection.

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