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Veteran councillor ‘hates’ Steveston scramble

The Steveston Scramble opened on Dec. 15, 2011. - Martin van den Hemel file photo
The Steveston Scramble opened on Dec. 15, 2011.
— image credit: Martin van den Hemel file photo

The Steveston Scramble is here to stay, but one city councillor isn’t pleased with the one-of-a-kind intersection.

“I hate it,” said Coun. Harold Steves at an open council meeting this week. “It’s designed for when there’s thousands of people on Moncton Street in the summertime, and in the wintertime, there’s nobody in the scramble—nobody going north, south, east or west—and cars are lined up for blocks waiting to get across.”

The 42-year councillor said he is giving the intersection a pass, however, because transportation planners are set to scrap the right-turn restriction for motorists at a red light.

The change is scheduled to take effect this spring, when right-turns-prohibited signs will be replaced with new ones cautioning motorists to yield to pedestrians. It’s possible a no-right-turn-on-red prohibition will return during the scramble phase only—with the aid of specialized traffic signals.

The city introduced the pedestrian scramble at the intersection of No. 1 Road and Moncton Street on Dec. 15, 2011 at a cost of $600,000.

Steves and all other members of the previous council unanimously approved the project at the time, making Richmond the only city in B.C. with a scramble.

In a city staff report last week, planners said the intersection—designed to stop all vehicles and allow pedestrians to walk in any direction, including diagonally—has been “well-received.” But it hasn’t been without its critics, who include a Twitter user named after the intersection.

For blind or partially-sighted pedestrians, scramble intersections are “less than satisfactory,” said Richmond’s Rob Sleath, chair of the Access for Sight Impaired Consumers advocacy group.

Sleath, a guide dog user who is blind, said guide dogs that cross diagonally could later replicate the movement at a standard intersection.

“It doesn’t take long for the dog to suddenly lose its training, so to speak, and think that doing diagonal crossings is quite acceptable,” he said.

Another problem for blind or visually impaired pedestrians, said Sleath, is the loss of traffic noise in the all-pedestrian mode—noise that acts as another guide beyond audible crosswalk signals.

Nonetheless, Sleath said the city should be congratulated for making the Steveston Scramble as accessible as possible through such improvements as raising the intersection and embedding tactile warning material in the pavement.

Sleath also highlighted the intersection’s bollards. Posts closest to crosswalks have been notched and colour-contrasted—an innovation that’s a first in North America.

“For somebody like myself who is totally blind, I have no light perception at all, I can go up to that bollard, put the back of my hand on that notched section, and it now gives me my line of travel,” said Sleath. “It also confirms that I’m lined up with the sidewalk.”

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