When it was announced that Denver’s pedestrian-friendly diagonal street crossing would end in the downtown area last week, practically the whole world took notice.
The unusual street crossing pattern – in which street lights in both directions of an intersection would turn red allowing pedestrians to cross safely in any direction including diagonally – was created more than six decades ago and caught the attention of not only cities in the U.S., but around the world. The innovative pattern was replicated in Toronto, London and Tokyo.
The end of the “Barnes Dance”, as the unusual crossing pattern (named for a former Denver traffic engineer named Henry Barnes) came to be known may have marked the end of an era but for some pedestrians the “dance” lives on.
City crews have removed the distinctive cross marks from 45 of the downtown area’s more than 230 intersections that facilitated diagonal street crossing. But other factors associated with the now-defunct practice could possibly combine to create a hazardous situation.
The timing of the stop lights remains, halting traffic in all directions and leading some pedestrians to continue to cross the street diagonally, stepping around sandbags that have been placed in front of the diagonal paths to discourage the practice and ignoring the fact that markings have been removed.
Drivers, meanwhile, could be confused by news that the practice has reportedly ended yet still see pedestrians continuing to cross diagonally. The fact that some stoplights in the intersections are now covered with bags may further complicate the situation.
As recently as this past Sunday, downtown pedestrians could be seen crossing intersections diagonally, many doing so despite bags that had been placed in the path of the diagonal walk to apparently discourage the practice.
However confusing the situation may be for pedestrians and drivers, it won’t be fully cleared up until mid-May, according to the city’s Public Works Department.
According to a representative of the Department, which oversees transportation planning, engineering and operations, the changes to the traffic light timing at the formerly diagonal intersections won’t be fully implemented until Saturday, May 14.
There will be some testing and adjustments by the Traffic Management Center staff for the week following the implementation but the representative said the new timing plans for the lights will be in full effect to meet the morning downtown traffic the following Monday.
In the meantime, pedestrians and drivers should probably take a bit of extra caution when walking through those intersections and watch out for those of either group who are unaware of the changes in the “Dance”.