May 07, 2004

Diagonal Crosswalks

Category: Urban Planning

diagcross.jpgSan Francisco: We're still a long way from having car-free downtowns in America, but San Francisco has given pedestrians a nice convienence in the form of diagonal crosswalks. At a certain time in the lighting cycle, all four directions of traffic get red lights, and pedestrians are permitted to walk in any direction, including diagaonally. It's a great time saver and relieves big crowds of stationary people waiting to cross. The photo is actually from Tokyo, where diagonal crossings are also common.

Posted by Nick at May 7, 2004 08:38 PM | TrackBack


We have the odd one of these in London too - but very rarely. Often in a traffic light cycle at large junctions, the traffic will receive a red light all round and all walk ways will show green for pedestrians. It is only a small addition to allow and encourage pedestrians to go diagonally through the centre. This should be encouraged!

Posted by: tom on May 9, 2004 09:24 AM

And ... even more news from San Francisco! We have had diagonal crosswalks in the crowded downtown shopping area for years, but just this past year we opened a number of new diagonal crosswalks on Stockton Street in the heart of San Francisco's most jam-packed and ultra-crowded pedestrian neighborhood ... Chinatown.

If it wors here ... it will work anywhere. And so far it has been working very, very well.

We also use "countdown" crosswalk signs that let pedestrians know how many seconds they have before the light changes.

Posted by: Tom Dunn on May 11, 2004 03:59 AM

A nice write-up on the designs in the U.S., and some of the effects:

Posted by: Greg on May 12, 2004 03:00 AM

Here in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, almost every intersection has these diagonal crosswalks, even in the suburbs. It is very nice for pedestrians, but it slows down quite considerably the amount of cars that can flow in a cycle of time. For this reason, the time needed to get your pedestrian signal may be quite long.

Posted by: Ludovic on May 13, 2004 05:47 AM

Pittsburgh has a couple of these in their downtown as well. Curb cutouts are there, but the crosswalks aren't marked. Because of this, I think less people take notice and therefore fail to take advantage of the opportunity.

Posted by: Jake Krohn on May 13, 2004 11:42 AM

More from San Francisco. We have a "Livable Streets Program" here that includes two interesting components: "Traffic Calming" and "Enchanced Crosswalk Design". These programs incorporate a number of features including diagonal crosswalks. You can go to the City's website page describing these programs by linking to:

Posted by: Tom Dunn on May 15, 2004 10:12 AM

Out of curiosity, are pedestrians at the San Francisco diagonal crosswalk also allowed to cross normally (perpendicular) while vehicles have a green light, or are they only allowed to go during the one, pedestrians-only (scramble) interval? And are there pedestrian signals facing diagonally across the intersection too?

There used to be (may still be) a pedestrian-only phase at the one signal in Sackville, New Brunswick (home of Mount Allison University), but there nothing that *looked* different from a normal signal (except that the "walk" signal only came on while all directions of traffic had a red light), and possibly as a result few people actually crossed diagonally.

Posted by: Brent on June 5, 2004 01:29 PM

Brent -

Yes, you can cross perpendicularily as well during normal traffic cycles. The diagonal crossing is a "bonus" cycle.

Posted by: Nick on June 5, 2004 02:52 PM

Thanks, Nick! -B.

Posted by: Brent on June 8, 2004 03:14 PM

I have yet to encounter one of the diagonal crosswalks here in SF, which probably says a lot about where I spend my time, but I can understand the appeal.

I do run into the countdown crosswalks pretty regularly, and they're brilliant. I know how fast I walk, and I know how much time I have, so I can always make an informed decision about getting across the intersection without blocking traffic.

Posted by: paperwight on July 19, 2004 07:17 PM
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