Dear PoP – diagonal crossing in Chinatown?

“Dear PoP,

Do you know anything about the diagonal crossing in Chinatown? I can see that there are diagonal crosswalks painted onto the road and there’s a sign (photo attached) that seems to urge pedestrians to cross this way. How does this work? This is one of the most chaotic intersections in town, I can’t imagine how this would work and be safe. Any insights? I’m dying to know!”

This is the famous Barnes Dance from 7th and H St, NW that was debuted in May. At the time we discussed it here. DDOT wrote in a press release:

“The District Department of Transportation is launching a new pilot program aimed at providing safer crossings for pedestrians at one of the District’s most traversed intersections: 7th and H streets, NW in Chinatown. The new traffic pattern, commonly called a “Barnes Dance,” allows pedestrians to cross in every direction, including diagonally, at the same time while vehicles on all four sides of the intersection are stopped at a red signal. The change is scheduled to be implemented on Wednesday, May 12 at 10 am.

“We are really excited to launch this pilot, and the intersection we’ve chosen is a great place to test this innovative timing technique,” said DDOT Director Gabe Klein. “Nearly 27,000 pedestrians use this intersection on an average day and about 26,000 vehicles. We believe by utilizing the Barnes Dance we can minimize conflicts and create a safer environment for everyone.”

Statistics show there were 35 total vehicle crashes at that intersection with 9 injuries (4 involving pedestrians) in 2009, and a total of 15 pedestrians injured from 2005-2008.

Rest of the release can be found here.

I finally had the chance to test it out a few weeks ago and I loved it! For those who have used it, do you find it useful?

60 Comment

  • I certainly enjoy using the Barnes Dance. It makes crossing the street much less hazardous since turns are no longer permitted. Despite the signs indicating ‘No Turns’ it seems that bicyclist feel that that rule does not apply to them but then again what traffic laws do bikers feel actually apply to them?

    Oh I know, the sovereignty of the bike lanes. God forbid someone other than a cyclist utilize that space on DC city streets.

    • When have you ever seen a bicyclist obey any traffic law in DC?

      • Never. Does it happen? 🙂

        • i’ve bike through this red light. i stopped first, waited until pedestrians were clearly out of the way, and then proceeded through – as i do with a lot of red lights. i’m a reasonable person – i don’t speed by pedestrians putting them at risk or discomfort, and i don’t put myself at risk by going through red lights at busy intersections. you try biking through this town and sitting at a red light with no cars or people in sight. i’m tired of non-cyclists constantly complaining about cyclist behavior. i do what keeps me safe and alive.

          • +1

            I’m not a jerk bicyclist either, but I do run red lights (safely) at minor intersections if the road is clear. I have fallen twice avoiding HEATHEN JAYWALKERS and managed to avoid them both times. Only one said sorry.

          • I have a question and an observation.

            Observation comes first: You both sound like jerk bicyclists.

            Question: What bicyclist isn’t a jerk? I mean seriously. Floyd Landis and Lance Armstrong make Barry Bonds look like Mother Theresa.

          • Emmaleigh504

            The main character from Breaking Away wasn’t a jerk. The Italians on the other hand…

          • you’re absolutley right, every single man, woman or child who rides a bicycle in washington dc or any other place in the entire world is a jerk. what other astute observations will you be sharing with us next?

          • And I’m tired of cyclists who freely admit to breaking the law, then complain about motor vehicles and pedestrians who do the same.

            Don’t like the law? Fine, lobby to have it changed. Until then, follow them.

          • Yep, you’re violating the law and you’re the reason why everyone hates bicyclists. You’re just trying to justify your own actions to suit your own needs.

            And I’ll put up my cycling credentials against yours any day.

          • Please note the exaggerated sarcasm directed at jaywalkers.

            Right now I’m just a guy taking a bike on occasion instead of car/metro/walking to get wherever i’m going. I contribute no emissions and negligible traffic, you drivers can thank me as you fly 50 mph down Sherman and slam on your brakes 5 seconds later, and I pass you. I will start following the law as soon as cars stop speeding and peds don’t jaywalk. Well probably not. But at least the only person I’m endangering is myself.

            People should spend much more time hating drunk drivers, texting drivers, and people who fart on the metro during rush hour because they kill thousands of innocents every year.

            We just look silly in neon spandex.

    • Yet, jaywalkers who cross fifteen or so feet away from this intersection can do no wrong. But then, what laws do pedestrians feel apply to them?

      • Okay, if humans were born with wheels *instead* of feet, you might have a point.

        But, last time I checked, people have feet. So now you want to tell me that the body parts that I’m born with are illegal? Where’s the sense in that?

        So go back to killing the environment with your stupid wheel legs and I’ll keep saving earth with my feet.

        You’re worse than BP.


        • I suppose you hate people in wheelchairs. Man, you’re worse than hitler. (Hyperbole, much?)

    • the cars are much worse than the bikes. at least one or two cars make a turn per light cycle and it seems like most of them have out-of-state plates. how is it that hard to see a no turn sign? they are posted all over! others have posted that cabs make turns but i haven’t seen that as much as the out-of-staters

  • Every time I’m at that intersection I see cabs sneaking illegal turns.

  • A similar crossing recently was introduced at Oxford Circus in London, which previously was one of the most congested crossings I have experienced. Saw it in action this past weekend, and it works very well. I believe these are modeled after one in Tokyo.

  • A friend of mine got pulled over by the police recently after making a right turn at this intersection. She said neither she nor her passenger saw the no-turn signs and it never occurred to them that one is not allowed make a turn there.

    Kind of sucks for them, but I’m glad to see that (anecdotally, at least) the police are patrolling this new traffic/pedestrian pattern.

    • You mean she didn’t look for the signs. There are at least three visible from every point at that intersection. Tough luck for your friend. She should learn how to drive, then she won’t get tickets.

      • she wont do it again i bet.

      • No, I mean she didn’t see them. I wasn’t there so I have no way of knowing whether she looked for them or not. It is possible to look for signs and still not see them.

        And in fact she is learning to drive, she doesn’t have her full license yet. And she didn’t get a ticket, just a warning.

        • She might want to consider a more qualified teacher than whatever friend was with her.

          • Oh, relax. People make mistakes when they are learning things.

            For that matter, people make mistakes when they have many many years of experience.

            I’m far more worried about people who know the rules and intentionally don’t follow them, all the while coming up with excuses for not following them.

  • I work across the street and think it’s great. The no turn thing is particularly nice and drivers who try to make a turn get noisily shunned (i.e. honked at) by those behind them. Who needs traffic cops?

  • I was at this intersection the Sunday before last and the signals were definitely not bringing traffic to all way stop for pedestrians to cross all ways/diagnoally. Does it only occur at certain times of the day or days of the week? I think the crosswalk signs were acting abnormally also, so it could have been a one-time signalling problem.

  • I cross this intersection at least twice a day and find it extremely useful, especially after learning the traffic pattern (all reds, traffic on 7th has green, traffic on H St has green, all reds).

    The only problem is with traffic that continues to turn. Maybe I’m an @$$, but on the days that I see tickets being issued to people who make turns at the intersection, I smile. Perhaps they could work out traffic cameras to ticket cars that turn illegally at this intersection – at $50 a ticket, the city may bring in a decent amount of money…

  • DC should eliminate right turn on red. It’s much more pedestrian friendly

  • Sad to see becoming a home to so much negative commenting. Used to be somewhere to go to avoid some of the vitriol of the internets. Now it’s becoming a regular snarkfest (e.g., first comment out of the box maligns bikers, sua sponte, as heedless lawbreakers, despite having little to do with the topic of the post).

    • Emmaleigh504

      not even snarky, mean.

    • agree as well. very annoying. i mostly delete stupid comments on my site and still think about disabling them all together. but yeah, i guess it’s some sort of release mechanism/outlet for people.

      • Isn’t your comment mean, but in a passive aggressive way?

        Conflict is interesting. There are hilarious people on here even if there are mean comments at times, who cares? Take the good with the bad. Are you really that sensitive? People are talking about bikes, cars, and walking here, it’s not really that dramatic.

        Disable comments all together on your website and make it the YOU show. See how long you can carry the show by yourself and what kind of community atmosphere your blog takes on. My guess is bland, boring, and dying.

        The “I don’t like it so it has to be banned” is a bad fist-pounding mentality.


        • right on. i’m obviously missing out on the community building aspects of these sorts of interactions.

          • tim,
            your blog is one of the better blogs in the city, with or without comments.
            i’ve commented there, maybe 4 times, but i still read it.

  • I often see cabs turning East onto H from 7th, always pisses me off…

    On another note, the Bus and Bike only lanes on 7th and 9th, are they ever actually enforced?

    • I’ve never seen the bus lane on 9th enforced. I have seen lots of cars with Maryland tags, however, speeding down the bus-only lane to the next red light. Then speeding off again to the next one. And so on.

      • I saw the cops enforcing 9th street last week (Friday around 8:30am). I drive that way every day to work. I was in the middle lane and there were a bunch of cars coming down the bus lane. The cops were not that visible…they were at the intersection where the FBI building is…a couple of bicycle cops. Anyway, as the lights changed to red, one of them stepped out into the bus lane and stopped the car that was next to me. I must admit, I did feel bad for the driver…it could easily have been me as I’ve used the bus/bike lane from time to time. The funny thing was watching all the cars behind the one that had been stopped…they were all making very sharp left turns into the middle lane to avoid getting pulled. Saw the cops again this past Monday, again around the same time. So they are out there, but I guess picking certain days/times of the week?

        • Hallelujah. That’s funny about the cars suddenly getting over. It shows that most of them know that they’re doing something wrong. I wonder how much the lane really helps the bus though (I don’t take it that far south).

  • anonymouse_dianne

    I agree with 2b3s — you need some kind of moderating on the comments these days. Too much anonymous snark.

    As a kid growing up in DC there were a number of these Barnes Dance intersections downtown and I thought they were much safer than conventional crossings. It’s good to see them coming back.

    • just wanted to say i loove your kitty profile photo.

    • Well, when you post a basic question on a topic that has been discussed several times on this site and numerous others, one that would require only the simplest of Google searches to find the answer, don’t be surprised when you get a collective rolling of eyes from the peanut gallery.

  • In Old town Pasadena, CA they’ve had diagonal crossing for at least 12 years(when I first saw it). I think it’s a nice feature, not really necessary, but nice.

    The only downfall I see is it holds up traffic both ways during the diagonal cross time.

  • I bike through this intersection every day and I love the new traffic pattern. It’s reduced the clusterfuckiness of Chinatown by a million. And when I drive, I don’t avoid that section of 7th Street the way I used to, because it’s not a complete headache to deal with anymore. Good work Gabe Klein and DDOT!

  • This happened a while ago. I would say this it a bit outdated….

  • +1 for moderation.

    I love how every cyclist in the city is a scofflaw,but somehow we’ve managed to go several years without killing anyone. Cars,trucks,and buses,on the other hand,seem to do this on a regular basis,despite the fact that every driver is a saint.

    Just curious if any of you folks above have ever looked up the numbers for annual traffic fatalities in this country? Believe it or not,the roads are actually more dangerous than handguns.

    • I’m not sure “annual traffic fatalities” is the measure by which we judge whether you get to follow the law or not.

      What I see is an overt PR campaign by the bicyclists minority to demonize every form of transportation other than bicycling while simultaneously making the case that they don’t have to follow any rules. “I can run red lights because, in my judgment, no one is around and I feel like it.” If that was actually the case, then no one would have noticed all the bicyclists running red lights –a tree in the forest argument. In fact, everyone sees every bicyclist running lights because that’s what bicyclists do.

      There are no driver advocates on going around telling the world that driving is the only form of sensible transportation and demonizing every other form of transportation available, while simultaneously making ridiculous arguments about why they “should” be able to break the law based on a self serving set of circumstances.

      Only the bicyclist “lobby” is doing this and this is why everyone hates on bicyclists.

      • *submits app to bike lobby*

        Yes everyone sees bikers running lights but what is the big deal??? Drivers are just pissed b/c I’m going faster than them. No one flips off, tailgates, or honks jaywalkers! (unless they leap in front of your car) No one bats an eye as cars fly down residential streets @ twice the speed limit!

        I can see a point when there are so many bikes on the road *crosses fingers* that it becomes a problem delaying auto traffic, but for now I say no harm no foul.

        Just try not to kill me on my commute home. Thanks!

      • I’m not excusing cyclist behavior,I’m saying there is much more focus on cyclists than drivers,despite the fact that drivers are way more numerous and causing the overwhelming majority of fatalities. Also,when was the last time you were threatened for driving your car in a legal manner? If we break the laws we’re damned,if we follow them we’re damned.

  • I lived in Tokyo for about 6 months and this is modeled after the enormous intersection in Shibuya. I think if people do this right, it works out absolutely brilliantly! I think this is a great idea as long as cabbies, pedestrians, cyclists, etc actually follow the rules. We’ll see!

  • I hope in the future we will have more roads completely closed to auto traffic. I love what bloomberg has done with some spaces in manhattan, notably Times Square. I love visiting European towns were there are many roads closed to traffic for at least part of the day.

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