DC Taps 1940s Idea to End Pedestrian Accidents

The “Barnes Dance” is the tune for pedestrians crossing at Irving Northwest and 14th Streets in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC, one of the busiest intersections in the area.

A new signaling system, which is named after Henry Barnes, went into use last month. Barnes was a traffic engineer in the 1940s who spread the use of what has been called “pedestrian scrambles” in major cities. His style hearkens back to an era before traffic was dominating city streets, which prompted engineers to then design roadways that prioritized car movement. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is hoping that it will make the bustling intersection safer for and more friendly to pedestrians.

The move is part of the district’s “Vision Zero” initiative, which aims to eliminate fatalities on the road by the year 2024. Although this traffic pattern is named after Barnes, he did not claim to have invented it. Nevertheless, he was its most well-known and vocal advocate. The pattern was first used in Denver, where Barnes hailed from, back in 1951.

This “dance” consists of three parts at this intersection with the midday timing, as covered below.

  • All vehicular traffic stops for 30 seconds, allowing pedestrians to cross diagonally and at any side without having to worry about turning cars. There are also prominently displayed “No right turn on red” signs.
  • Eastbound traffic resumes on Irving Street, which is one way, for 25 seconds. Those in vehicles can turn onto 14th Street, with no pedestrian crossings allowed.
  • Both southbound and northbound traffic on 14th Street get a green light for 45 seconds. During this time, pedestrians can cross Irving Street on the intersection’s west side without having to deal with any turning cars.

This system’s goal to remove conflicts between turning cars and people walking by keeping pedestrian crossings separate from the movement of cars, and it is much-needed at this intersection. According to George Branyan, a pedestrian safety specialist for DDOT, six people were hit by turning vehicles while in the crosswalk at this intersection over the past three years. In the area, there is a massive DC USA shopping complex that attracts bike and foot traffic, and these streets are also part of multiple bus routes. In addition, the lanes are narrow, and bus drivers often have to compete with driving services and taxi drivers who are transporting shoppers for space. There is also a station for the city’s Metrorail with entrances on both sides of the street. Estimates put pedestrian traffic here as high as 3,500 people crossing per hour during peak times.

Unfortunately, drivers often don’t see pedestrians due to speeding, distractions and other behaviors, which is why this traffic pattern has been resurrected and is being tested in the busy DC neighborhood. Pedestrian accidents continue to be a problem across the country as more and more cars hit the road each year. If you were injured in a pedestrian-auto accident, contact an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer Denver CO trusts about your case and your rights today.

Richard J. Banta, P.C.Thanks to our friends and contributors from Richard J. Banta, P.C. for their insight into dog bite cases.

Posted on July 26, 2017 @ 7:39 pm