June 23, 2017

An old street idea is being revived

Governing  - [Washington DC] recently reconfigured an intersection to give pedestrians a chance to cross whichever streets they’d like -- even diagonally. The traffic signal cycle at the intersection now includes a period in which all vehicle traffic is stopped and pedestrians can cross in any direction without worrying about getting hit by a car or truck.

This type of intersection, which is actually the second to be implemented in the District in recent years, has been around for decades. It's known as a “pedestrian scramble” or a “Barnes dance,” in honor of the transportation director, Henry Barnes, who championed the design in the mid-20th century.

Now, local officials in D.C. and elsewhere -- including Nashville, Tenn.; and Portland, Ore. -- are taking a new look at this old idea as a way to potentially reduce pedestrian deaths and injuries.

Even though they’re new to D.C., pedestrian scrambles have been used in several U.S. cities. Barnes, who served as a transportation commissioner in Baltimore, Denver and New York City, promoted their use in those cities from the 1940s through the 1960s. But the traffic arrangement slowly lost favor, as engineers focused on making intersections more efficient for moving vehicles.

In D.C., transportation planners will study the new intersections to determine whether the design would make sense in other places across the city.

“We get lots of requests for pedestrian scrambles [but] we haven’t had good enough performance information to know whether it’s something we should be more aggressively pursuing or not. That will come from this,” says Sam Zimbabwe, the chief project delivery officer for the District’s transportation department.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seattle has several pedestrian scrambles, mostly in the Pioneer Square area. When I visit, I always feel so exposed while crossing diagonally with all the traffic waiting to go. I know it's foolish, but it's such a novelty if you don't live near one. Still I think I could get used to them, if I lived near one.