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Brussels to examine feasibility of diagonal pedestrian crossings
Brussels is considering running a pilot scheme to see if diagonal pedestrian crossings – as seen notably at Shibuya crossroads in Tokyo which is popular for tourists seeking Instagrammable scenes – would be feasible for the capital.
“Diagonal crossings have benefits,” Belgium’s mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt (Groen) told the Brussels parliament’s mobility committee this week.
“They allow pedestrians to reach the opposite side of the crossroads in a single step. They are particularly useful at intersections where there is a steady flow of pedestrians, as they can cross at the same time, regardless of the direction they want to take.”
However, it is not enough to paint diagonal white strips on the road. As the highway code does not allow this type of pedestrian crossing, the regions need a legislative amendment before they can act.
Discussions on the highway code between the federal government, Brussels, Wallonia and Flanders are ongoing, Van den Brandt explained.
“These discussions have allowed Brussels Mobility to support a request authorising pedestrians to cross the road diagonally. If this is agreed, Brussels Mobility will launch a study to identify which crossroads in the region would suit such a change and then carry out a test.”
At this stage, it is difficult to single out Brussels junctions that this proposal would help, although some may be obvious choices, such as those around the inner ring.
Meanwhile, Van den Brandt warned that a diagonal intersection would also increase pedestrian waiting times, as the traffic light cycle times would have to be changed.
She said attention must also be paid to ensure clear signage and that Brussels residents have a good knowledge of the rule so not to put pedestrians or people with reduced mobility at risk.
Tokyo is not the only city that has embraced diagonal intersections. They are also found in the UK (London), Seoul, Switzerland and Canada.
The overriding interest in adopting this system for Brussels is road safety. Walking is the main means of transport for Brussels inhabitants. In 2022, five pedestrians were killed and, in the first quarter of 2023, accidents involving pedestrians increased by 15%.