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Pedestrians use the new 'scramble crossing' at the intersection of Bloor and Bay streets in Toronto, Ont. November 03, 2010. It is the third downtown intersection to employ the crossing system.

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Toronto's third "pedestrian scramble" intersection has opened, and the city is now looking at installing a fourth walker-friendly crossing near the University of Toronto.

Pedestrians were invited to cross diagonally at the corner of Bay and Bloor Streets for the first time on Wednesday, months later than planned.

Construction on Bloor Street's upscale shopping strip delayed the new crossing, according to Fiona Chapman, the city's manager of pedestrian projects.

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City council approved the installation of four scramble intersections - also known as "Barnes Dances," after U.S. traffic engineer Henry Barnes - as pilot projects in 2007. The crossings halt vehicular traffic in all directions, allowing pedestrians to cross on all sides and diagonally.

"Generally speaking, they've been a success," Ms. Chapman said, referring to the scrambles that opened at Yonge and Dundas Streets in August, 2008, and Yonge and Bloor Streets in October, 2009.

The fourth scramble was supposed to be at Bay and Dundas, but city staff are rethinking the location because it's so close to the busy one at Yonge-Dundas Square.

"We just made a decision that would not be the smartest thing to do," Ms. Chapman said. Instead, city engineers are exploring putting the fourth scramble at the corner of Harbord and St. George Streets, near the University of Toronto's bustling John P. Robarts Research Library.

However, the wonky shape of the intersection means it would take pedestrians too long to cut through its centre, Ms. Chapman said. Instead, the city is considering a modified version that would turn traffic lights red in all directions while pedestrians strolled across at the regular crossing points.

While the scrambles have been a boon for people commuting on two feet, they've been a bust for those travelling on four wheels.

For instance, at Yonge and Dundas - an intersection that also accommodates an east-west streetcar route - the amount of green-light time for vehicles dropped to 50 per cent per hour in the morning rush hour from 80 per cent per hour after the scramble's installation.

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Delays at the same time of day jumped by 141 per cent, according to an internal study that compared Toronto's pilot project to an experiment in Calgary. The study says the delays are justified because more than 50,000 pedestrians traverse the Yonge-Dundas intersection in a typical 24-hour period, compared with 36,000 vehicles.

But it's not clear the new approach has made the Yonge-Dundas intersection safer.

The study found more pedestrians broke the crossing rules after the scramble was installed.

There was one vehicle-pedestrian collision at the intersection in the year before the scramble and one afterward, according to Mike Brady, the city's manager of traffic safety. In both cases, the vehicle had the green light.

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Kelly Grant is a health reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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