Susie Rushton: A more civilised way to cross the road

Urban Notebook

Related Topics

From the westerly direction, black cabs and red buses compete to flatten you, the pedestrian scum. At the north point, a tidal wave of discombobulated tourists laps between the ex-Virgin Megastore on one side of the road and, facing it, a horrible glittering picture of Freddie Mercury outside the Dominion Theatre. In the south east, behind Centre Point, a road leads to Covent Garden – a useful shortcut, if only you didn't have to get to it through a stinking, urine-stained subway tunnel. Finally, to the south of this hellish convergence, lie three lanes of traffic thundering up Charing Cross Road.

This is the worst junction in London. What it needs is a really good scramble.

A scramble, in case you're not familiar, is a type of multi-directional crossing, famously used in Japan, which eases the flow of pedestrians at busy junctions. Lights hold the traffic all at once, temporarily turning a the street into a pedestrian zone, allowing quicker, diagonal routes across the road. On holiday in Tokyo last week I joined the busiest scramble in the world, the Hachiko crossing in jam-packed fashion and electronics district Shibuya.

For 50 seconds, hundreds of people advance towards each other, briefly merge, pass and then flow on to the other side. It's such a remarkable sight that a Starbucks at the junction has set up a special viewing window from which skinny-capp sippers can watch the elegant swarm. As a piece of ergonomics, the scramble really works. At Hachiko you're more likely to be bumped by a Western film crew recording the scene than get jostled by another person, let alone hit by a car.

In the next few weeks central London will get its first scramble, at Oxford Circus, just half a mile down the road from my least favourite crossing. It's about time. There's been lots of noise and PR about the capital's efforts to befriend cyclists, but sometimes, as a humble walker, bothered by tramps, toxic fumes and traffic, I feel like I'm at the bottom of the food chain.

Tokyo pedestrians don't have it entirely easy, either: over there, cyclists speed along the pavements with impunity. But those on foot can be trusted not to abuse a special button at crossings that prolongs the red lights holding the traffic, intended for the use of elderly or disabled only. That, obviously, could never happen here.

Lacking the X Factor

Pity the residents of Golders Green, north London, specifically of the street where the X Factor contestants are bunking up for the duration of the competition. This week the fantastically irritating duo John and Edward pranced around in the window dressed in just their boxer shorts, causing a hormonal stew of young female fans gathered outside to reach boiling point. A neighbour, Madam Fu Ying, who happens to be the Chinese ambassador, has now complained to the British Government. I agree, Ambassador. John and Edward must be stopped.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture