A Pedestrian Priority Phase (also know as pedestrian scramble phase) gives a walk signal to pedestrians in all directions at the same time at a signalized intersection while drivers are stopped in all directions. The primary advantage is that pedestrians can cross the intersection without any conflicting motor vehicle movements. Pedestrians may also be able to cross the intersection diagonally, thereby completing two crossings at once.

At three intersections (Yonge/Dundas, Yonge/Bloor, and Bay/Bloor) you can cross the street safely in any direction during a Pedestrian Priority Phase 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.

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 and more.

As a cyclist, you are considered a vehicle according to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. If you approach one of these three intersections on a bicycle and you need to make a left turn, you have 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.

You must not cycle through a crosswalk and you must stop behind the white stop line. Being in front of the white stop line is illegal, and can be dangerous, too.