All-way crossing opens in D.C.
About 10 a.m., the paper covers came off the black-and-white signs and the new diagonal crossing lights started flashing at Seventh and H streets in downtown Washington, near Verizon Center. People began crossing every which way.
It's a liberating feeling, this new Barnes Dance, but it's going to take everybody some getting used to. First of all, making a diagonal crossing at one of the District's busiest intersections is weird. A District intersection hasn't been set up for that in several decades. All the lights are red for drivers for almost half a minute, but it doesn't seem that long when you're making the diagonal crossing. Don't dawdle.
But drivers also need to know that all turns are now banned at this intersection. I can understand their confusion. Even the traffic control officers were struggling to get the hang of it in the first few minutes. "No right on red either?" one called out to a District Department of Transportation official.
No, no right on red, no right on green, no left on anything. The District put up variable message boards on the approaches and signs at the intersection, plus the traffic control officers are going to be around for at least a few days while people get adjusted. But there's a lot to look at in this busy intersection by the Chinatown arch, and the new signs may not be the first things that drivers notice.
Drivers also have to deal with a new concept: This is basically being done to make things easier and safer for pedestrians, who are the dominant users of this particular intersection. They could take a bit of solace on one point: George Branyan, the District's pedestrian program coordinator, who was on the scene this morning, noted that the new strategy might get drivers through the intersection faster. Without vehicles turning and without having to wait for pedestrians in the crosswalks, the through traffic might flow better.
There's one particular sign, or set of signs, that I found confusing: Heading south on Seventh Street, drivers saw a "NO TURNS" sign above another sign with a left-turn arrow that had a red stripe through it. A driver looking at both might think that only left turns are banned, and as I've said, that's not the case. The traffic control officers, people I admire because they are much braver than I am, need to be very active in these first few days till drivers get used to the new rules.
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