The new “barnes dance” crossing at one of the busiest intersections in the District is being met with some mixed reviews.
The D.C. Department of Transportation unveiled this unusual pedestrian crossing in Chinatown Wednesday, just a few blocks from the Verizon Center.
Here’s how a “barnes dance” works: Traffic is allowed to cycle through the intersection in each direction (just like any other normal intersection), but then all vehicular traffic is stopped completely. Pedestrians are then allowed to cross in any direction they want — including diagonally.
The “barnes dance” in the District has a different take: Pedestrians will be allowed to cross with the green light and the walk signal (as they normally would), even as vehicular traffic flows through. In a traditional “barnes dance” intersection, cars and pedestrians take turns. Cars go and then pedestrians have the longer cycle.
“It’s confusing,” said one man as he reached the other side of the street.
Others seemed timid about stepping into the middle of the intersection. That’s why DDOT has deployed traffic control officers at the intersection to guide pedestrians.
“Without those people telling us what to do, I wouldn’t have known,” said another man.
DDOT Director Gabe Klein was monitoring traffic flow Wednesday, and is already talking about a couple of tweaks. For instance, putting a pedestrian symbol at the corners of the intersection to let people know they can walk across diagonally.
“I think we’ll get used to it,” another pedestrian said. “I think it is a good thing.”
“There is going to be a period of getting used to it,” says DDOT Pedestrian Program Coordinator George Branyan. “We have more pedestrians than vehicles at this intersection. The conflicts between the turning drivers and the pedestrians legally in the crosswalk has always been a problem.”
Aside from having to wait a while longer, another major change drivers will notice is that with the new pattern, you can no longer make any turns at the intersection.