Scramble intersections set for trial run in the spring

New scramble intersections, due to be completed this spring, will face their first series of hurdles, the City of Toronto reports.

As part of the Toronto Walking Strategy, the new intersections will appear at Yonge and Bloor Streets and Bay and Bloor Streets.

Manager of Urban Traffic Control Systems for the city of Toronto, Bruce Zvaniga said the intersections are still in the design stage to work out kinks.

“One of our major issues is how to communicate to the public these changes so they can be prepared,” Zvaniga said.

The new traffic signals require an automatic four-way stop for cars on a red light. Crossing the intersection diagonally is the focus of the scramble intersection.

However people who are visually impaired use the sound of traffic as navigation through intersections.

Canadian Council of the Blind board member, Jim Tokos said that people with visual impairments are not trained to walk diagonally through intersections and might be confused with cars stopped all four ways.

“It’s completely against our policies. When people are trained with canes or with dogs, they’re trained to go curb to curb, north to south or east to west,” Tokos said.

‘Out of the picture for the blind community’

“That kind of intersection would be completely out of the picture for the blind community.”

Zvaniga said he continues to collaborate with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to find solutions to this problem. He said different tactile surfaces from the regular road might assist the people with visual impairments to find their way diagonally.

“I don’t know if that would help,” Tokos said. “They would have to walk out on the road, or put their canes out to get a feel for it. We’d classify that as unsafe.”

The four-way stop includes no right turns for cars on a red light, so it would be safe to cross. But for some drivers, the temptation to turn right at a red light might be too strong.

One driver who frequents Bloor Street said, “What’s the harm? Of course I would (turn). If I’m waiting at a scramble intersection and nobody’s scrambling, I’m going to check for cops and then go.”

“We don’t want to cause people to disobey the law,” Zvaniga said.

“This issue would be easily solved with audible stop lights,” Tokos said.

He said the best idea would be to have audible signals on a corner post at the intersections that people can push when they need to. He suggested one sound for north to south and a different sound for east to west.

Two more scramble intersections are planned for spring 2009 at Yonge and Dundas streets and Bay and Dundas streets, intersections which Zvaniga said are extremely busy.

As of yet, there is no firm date set to implement the first two scramble intersections due to construction on Bloor Street.