Walking

Pedestrian Priority Phase or "Barnes Dance"

Scramble Yonge and Dundas

Pedestrians in Toronto are dancing in the streets with the implementation of a Pedestrian Priority Phase, also known as the "Barnes Dance" at some intersections in the City.

A Pedestrian Priority Phase is a feature that allows pedestrians to cross the road safely in any direction while traffic is stopped for all vehicles. In these selected intersections, a red light is shown to vehicles in all directions while the pedestrian "walk" sign is provided to pedestrians to travel in any direction they wish including diagonally across the intersection in the first phase.

City Council, through the 2007 Sustainable Transportation Initiatives Report have identified four intersections for implementation: Bloor and Bay; Bloor and Yonge; Yonge and Dundas; and Bay and Dundas. To date, three intersections (Yonge/Dundas, Yonge/Bloor, and Bay/Bloor) currently have a Pedestrian Priority Phase. Staff will review the success of the Pedestrian Priority Phases in 2011. Other intersections are being considered for future installation.

Safety is one of the major reasons for using this strategy. The goal is to reduce the conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles by providing an exclusive phase for pedestrians.

Three intersections (Yonge/Dundas, Yonge/Bloor, and Bay/Bloor) currently have a Pedestrian Priority Phase. Staff will review the success of the Pedestrian Priority Phases in 2011. Other intersections are being considered for future installation.

The Pedestrian Priority Phase was one of the enhanced pedestrian features included in the City's Sustainable Transportation Initiatives and is consistent with the policies and objectives contained in the City's Official Plan and Climate Change Plan. The City is committed to enhancing pedestrian safety and supporting transportation initiatives that provide alternatives to the use of private automobiles.

The Pedestrian Priority Phase is also called the "scramble" phase, "scramble" light, "scramble" corners and "Barnes Dance." The latter was named after Henry Barnes, a prominent traffic engineer who was credited as the first to use this system of pedestrian crossings in such United States cities as Kansas City, Kan., Vancouver, Wash., Denver, Co., Baltimore, Md., and New York City. The terminology came from a newspaper article that stated "Barnes made the people so happy they’re dancing in the streets."

Currently, several cities around the world use the Pedestrian Priority Phase including Tokyo, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Ca., Miami, Fla. and Denver Co., Auckland, NZ., and New South Wales, Australia.

Using Crosswalks as a Cyclist
Cyclists are considered vehicles, according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. When approaching an intersection where the cyclist needs to make a left hand turn, the cyclist has two options.

  1. Move into the appropriate lane to safely cross the intersection and turn left as a vehicle in the flow of traffic.
  2. Dismount and walk their bike across the crosswalk as a pedestrian.

Cyclists must not cycle through a crosswalk and must stop behind the white stop line. Being in front of the white stop line is illegal, and can be dangerous too, as placing yourself in the intersection may create a conflict for vehicles behind you that want to turn right.

At Pedestrian Priority Phase intersections bicycles are still considered vehicles, and if a cyclist wishes to cross a street using the scramble crosswalk, the cyclists must dismount and walk their bike just as they would any other crosswalk.

Additional Information

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