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Posted at 5:29 PM ET, 05/12/2010

Don't start dancing yet, Georgetown

By Washington Post editors

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is installing a Barnes Dance at Seventh and H streets NW, an intersection with particularly high pedestrian volume. Georgetown Metropolitan suggested one at Wisconsin and M. Should DC spread these far and wide?

Not so fast. A Barnes Dance, also known as a pedestrian scramble, can improve pedestrian safety. But, as with most changes, there are tradeoffs. With all the turns at Wisconsin and M, the kind of Barnes Dance at Seventh and H wouldn't work, and the traditional kind might not be improve conditions for pedestrians.

The traditional Barnes Dance was popularized (and got its name) in the 1950s and 1960s. It involves three phases for the traffic signal. In one, pedestrians cross in all directions, including diagonally. The other two let traffic go in one of the two directions but prohibit pedestrians from crossing parallel to the traffic.

By giving pedestrians free run of the intersection for one-third of the time but keeping them entirely out the other two-thirds of the time, the traditional Barnes Dance increases pedestrian safety, at least in theory, by separating pedestrians and traffic. However, it also inconveniences pedestrians by making them wait.

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Washington Post editors  | May 12, 2010; 5:29 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network  
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