Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Halifax needs a pedestrian scramble

Read more articles by

HALIFAX – I’ve watched with joy as cities around the world have embraced pedestrian culture. From one side of the globe to the other, cities have been implementing ‘pedestrian scrambles’—intersections where all car traffic is stopped and pedestrians are allowed to cross in any direction without fear of being hit. First known as a Barnes dance, these crossings now grace the streets of Auckland, Tokyo, Kansas City, London and Toronto to name only a few.

About a month ago, Joshua Biggley posted on Charlottetown’s recent steps towards getting the first pedestrian scramble in Atlantic Canada. While I applaud their initiative, it strikes me as odd that in Halifax, the region’s biggest city, scrambles haven’t even been mentioned. So it got me thinking, if Halifax was to get a pedestrian scramble, where would it go?

Spring Garden and Dresden Row

Arguably the most frequented intersection in the city, this thoroughfare would likely be the ideal location a first pedestrian scramble. [ view ]

Robie Street, Quinpool Road, Cogswell Street and Bell Road (pictured above)

Maybe this is a little too ambitious, but what about installing a seasonal pedestrian crossing to help connect the Common to Quinpool Road.  Currently, it’s not too much of a stretch to say this intersection is one of the most pedestrian un-friendly in the city.  Throwing down some painted stripes and enabling pedestrians to cross the street in any direction all at one time could demonstrate the added safety benefits a scramble would bring, while also potentially providing tentative cyclists a way across the otherwise forbidding intersection (although this would have to be written into the by-law). [ view ]

Pizza Corner (Grafton and Blowers Streets)

Already a bit of an unofficial scramble, putting an official pedestrian scramble here might not only be the easiest way to introduce pedestrian scrambles to Atlantic Canada, but it could be a good way of getting similarly developed intersections scrambles of their own. [ view ]

Barrington Street

There are a whole number of spots on Barrington that could benefit from pedestrian scrambles.  Either at Sackville, Prince, Blowers or possibly even at Morris Street, putting in this kind of infrastructure could really inject a little life into the currently shuttered sidewalks of much of Halifax’s downtown main street. [ view ]

photo by Lawrence Plug



  1. Switching Robie Street, Quinpool Road and Cogswell Street and Bell Road to rotaries (small ones, not like the current one in Halifax) would make them a lot more pedestrian friendly and would let traffic flow much more consistently and safely. Right now those intersections don’t seem to be very friendly or safe for anyone.

  2. Pedestrian “scrambles” aren’t new to Atlantic Canada, Saint John had a few operating for years. However what may have been the last of them was removed from the corner of Union and Waterloo earlier this year.

  3. Re: Jevon,
    I’ve thought before about whether putting in a rotary/roundabout at the quinpool/robie intersection would help things. The problem is rotaries and roundabouts are notoriously bad for cyclists and I haven’t yet seen one that seems to work well for bikes
    Re: G
    I had no idea they’ve slowly been removed from Saint John, thanks for the info. Were they meant as temporary or are there other reasons behind why they’re being removed?

  4. Regarding being the “first in Atlantic Canada,” Sackville, NB has had a scramble for as long as I’ve been here (five years), however, I believe we call it a “cattle crossing” – the rural version. Same thing? Different?

  5. I think all 4 corners of the commons would be a great location for a scramble with the N. Park, Rainie, Ahern, Trollope, Cogswell intersection being the one to benefit the most. You basically have to be running to make it legally across Cogswell and Rainie along the east side of this intersection.

    Also the intereaction between Halifax drivers and pedestrians is notoriously bad and even modern traffic circles would be a bad idea around the commons unless over/underpasses were used. Have you ever tried to walk around the rotary? Drivers are very bad for watching out for pedestrians. They are more concerned about negotiating their way into the circle. The common’s corners handle far more pedestrian traffic than the rotary and it would just be a nightmare to have an traffic circle with complete pedestrian/vehicle seperation…

    A scramble would be much cheaper and pedestrian friendly.

  6. I’m much more in favour of Shared Streets (sometimes referred to as Naked Streets). I think Sping Garden (and all the streets the cross it) are prime candidates.

    I don’t think a scramble would work at the Willow intersection (Robie/Cogswell, Bell, Quinpool). There’s not enough pedestrian traffic to justify.

    As for pizza corner, I’m weary that “scrambling it” would involve street lights. I think 4-way stop signs work better for pedestrians.

    I could see a scramble at Barrington and Duke. The proximity to the transit terminal means more people than sidewalk space.

  7. JEVON: I am well aware of all the different types of traffic circles and regardless of the rules of traffic flow, unless there is a complete separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic the risk of a collision is higher because drivers have to ‘think on the fly’ which a lot of people don’t do well for various reasons. A traditional intersection does a much better job by removing the requirement for driver to ‘think on the fly’ and also does a partial job of separating vehicle and pedestrian traffic. 

    Don’t get me wrong though, I am all for improving traffic control and flow through the use of traffic circles. However we need to take into account the fact that anytime an intersection only requires a driver to ‘yield’ to pedestrians, the risk of collision is greater.

  8. Thinking back to my childhood, I am almost certain that there used to be scramble sidewalks in Halifax on Barrington St… I could be wrong but I can remember talking about them once and seem to recall looking down on them from the TD Tower when I was a little kid… if this was so where could we find out and secondly why were they removed? By the way that first picture is marvelous!

  9. Pedestrians IN Halifax are among the most spoiled and brazen that I’ve seen in all my travels. There is a culture here where pedestrians assume they have the right of way in every single situation; justifying them to just walk out in front of a moving car (no matter where they are). I’ve almost hit people crossing the street for the following reason: 1. They’re crossing at an unmarked location which is neither a street corner or an automated crosswalk. 2. They assume a 3000+ lb car will stop on a dime for them. 3. They cross an intersection diagonally rather than using the crosswalks provided at each corner. 4. They COMPLETELY IGNORE cross walk signs and cross when they are not suppose to. I’ve lived all over the country and I’m gobsmacked by how pedestrians treat their lives so fleetingly without regard for themselves or drivers. It’s time Halifax Officers start handing out Jaywalking tickets, I’d even give Meter-maids the authority to do this. Drivers have repercussions and if we’re all going to share the road, then pedestrians should have repercussions as well. In addition, if a car accident is caused by a pedestrians crossing when or where he/she shouldn’t; then they should be made accountable for the damages that those vehicles sustain. It’s time everyone share the responsibility instead of the majority of the blame always being shifted to the driver. A pedestrians has far more control over the speed and direction of their body than a person dopes driving a vehicle. It almost appears as though pedestrians here lack common sense and self preservation. What’s worse, the city seems to blind to this fact!!!! Seriously, people NEED to start getting Jaywalking tickets … its time they obey the law as I do!!!!!

  10. This comment is in response to Andrew’s post. First of all, I am living in Halifax temporarily, I am from Toronto. I do not use a car, I live in the south end and I walk everywhere, I really do not need a car. In Toronto, if the walk signal says walk, I walk, and cars wait in the middle of the intersection until I have crossed (ie. it is illegal to turn your wheels into the intersection when you’re waiting for oncoming traffic to past). NOW, instead, in Halifax, when I cross the street drivers do not slow down, they will drive RIGHT into me, and continue to try to drive me down as I am crossing the intersection. So, my question, is: why is this necessary? Is it because you are in a hurry and my crossing the street is stopping you from trying to get somewhere by 10 seconds? Is that why you are impatient? Well, my response to that is: YOU LIVE IN HALIFAX. How important can you be? What do you work at the United Nations Halifax HQ and you’re delegating peace talks between Israel and Palestine? No, you are trying to get to your pathetic job, and live your pathetic Halifax life just like all the other losers in this one horse town. Look, I almost got run down for the 100th time since I’ve been here. I just want to live so I can get on the plane and get out of this hell hole. So drivers in Halifax, slow down and stop driving like idiots to make up for your inferiority complexes.