‘At first I said: “No way, it’s too scary. I’m not walking through the middle of an intersection. We’ll get hit by a car.” ’ : Pasadena Pedestrians Get New Slant on Crowded Crosswalks


The most popular street corners in Pasadena are now X-rated.

So, naturally, traffic screeches to a halt when people such as Barbara Sanchez and Jennifer Mottershaw step off the curb and sashay into the middle of famed Colorado Boulevard.

Cars have to stop. That is because the thoroughfare best known as the route of the Rose Parade has been equipped with new crosswalks that allow pedestrians to walk diagonally from one corner to another.

“X” marks the spot at two of the boulevard’s intersections--at DeLacey and Raymond avenues--where “scramble crossings” were installed last week. Freshly painted lines on the pavement and signs on each corner alert pedestrians to their newfound freedom.


The crosswalks spring to life every 90 seconds. Eastbound and westbound motorists get the first 30 seconds. Northbound and southbound motorists get the next 30 seconds. And pedestrians walking north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest get the rest.

Drivers and pedestrians alike say the new system is taking some getting used to.

“At first I said: ‘No way, it’s too scary. I’m not walking through the middle of an intersection. We’ll get hit by a car,’ ” said Sanchez, a teacher from Altadena.

Her friend Mottershaw, a teacher from Riverside, talked her into it. “I let her go first so I could call 911 if necessary,” she joked.

Ten-year-old Brandon Stanislawski had a pensive look as he waited to cross from the northeast corner of

Colorado and DeLacey to the southwest. “This is my first time. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.


Pasadena officials say the crosswalks were installed at the request of business owners in the busy Old Pasadena area. Their sidewalks are jammed at noontime and on Friday and Saturday nights by throngs of shoppers and diners.


“In the beginning, people were kind of confused about what to do,” said Minder Day, a Pasadena traffic engineer.

City traffic operations chief Daryl Taavola acknowledged that the automobile traffic flow along Colorado “does get sacrificed a little” as pedestrians seize the intersections. But drivers may be compensated by faster turns to and from the boulevard during the minute that pedestrians are banned from the street.

Pasadena’s new crosswalks are patterned after X-crossings created in 1986 in Beverly Hills when officials there became alarmed at accidents between cars and pedestrians.

Since then, encounters between cars and people have been reduced about 30% at the eight intersections equipped with X crosswalks, said Bijan Vaziri, Beverly Hills’ associate traffic engineer.

Beverly Hills leaders based their crosswalks on a system used in Las Vegas. And Las Vegas got the crosswalk idea from Denver. That is where pioneering traffic engineer Henry Barnes created them in the late 1940s, according to Ralph B. Hirsch, chairman of the Philadelphia-based International Federation of Pedestrians.

By the 1950s, the X-crosswalk idea had spread to places such as Baltimore, where pedestrians using diagonal crossings where sometimes said to be doing the “barn dance.” Robert Sleight, executive director of the Tucson-based Walking Assn., said the nickname honored Barnes and the square dance pattern of the crosswalks.


In 1956, the scramble crosswalk made its debut in Los Angeles. Traffic engineers installed them at Downtown intersections to handle the huge crowds of shoppers and businessmen clogging the area in those days.

But they were removed in 1958 when shoppers began deserting the city for suburban retail areas. Motorists began complaining that they were causing delays, said John Fisher, a principal transportation engineer for Los Angeles.

“I can personally remember them as a boy in the mid-’50s in Santa Monica,” Fisher said Friday. “Back then, they were all the vogue.”



Do Pasadena’s new flashing pedestrian lights signal the return of the X-walk trend?

Alan Hoskin, statistics chief for the Illinois-based National Safety Council, said traffic engineers pay close attention to intersections because that is were 16,000 pedestrians nationwide were hit by cars last year.

Scramble crosswalks have been phased out of many cities, “but where you do have it, it’s very effective--it can reduce accidents by 50%,” said Dean Childs, director of Traffic Safety Service for the American Automobile Assn.

According to Fisher, X-crosswalks are beneficial at intersections in which high numbers of pedestrians and cars are trying to make turns. There have been no recent requests for them in Los Angeles, he said.


Vaziri said the high volume of through traffic on most streets makes it unwise to completely halt traffic and give over major intersections to pedestrians. In fact, he said, Beverly Hills initially installed scramble crosswalks at 10 intersections but had to remove two.

It turned out that the intersections of Beverly Drive and Brighton Way and Beverly Drive and Dayton Way were too busy for the scramble system to work without snarling traffic, he said.

Pasadena traffic engineers say they may install additional X-crossings if the experiment is a success. “Now some of the residential areas are asking for these too. We’d like to see how these first two come out first, though,” Day said.

Back at Colorado and DeLacey, Brandon Stanislawski made it across with a smile on his face.

Sanchez and Mottershaw said the X-walk could change pedestrians’ direction for the good.

“This is much easier,” Sanchez said.

“Much better,” Mottershaw agreed.