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D.C. Wants Pedestrians To "Dance" In The Street

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There's a new crosswalk scheme at 7th and H Streets in Northwest D.C.: traffic stops in all directions, and pedestrians can cross in any way they please.
David Schultz
There's a new crosswalk scheme at 7th and H Streets in Northwest D.C.: traffic stops in all directions, and pedestrians can cross in any way they please.

By David Schultz

Yesterday, walking through the middle of an intersection would have been jaywalking. Now, every few minutes at 7th and H Streets in Northwest D.C., traffic stops in both directions. This lets pedestrians cross in any direction they like, without worrying about turning cars.

"We've brought back something that used to be in a lot of cities and still is in a few, which is called a Barnes Dance," says George Branyan, with D.C.'s Department of Transportation.

He says the Barnes Dance - named after the traffic engineer who concocted it - should make things safer at 7th and H Streets.

"We've got counts that show about 27,000 pedestrians here per day," he says, "and about 26,000 cars."

The idea of walking diagonally through an intersection was a strange one for some pedestrians. But Sam Purswell, who works nearby, says it's definitely an improvement.

"I've almost been hit here two or three times with somebody trying to turn right on red," he says. "They don't think about pedestrians coming from the other direction. So I think it will make it a lot safer and a lot quicker."

For the next few weeks, traffic control officers will be at 7th and H, teaching drivers and pedestrians how to do the Barnes Dance. After that, they're on their own.

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