Diagonal Crosswalk in Columbia Heights?


“Dear PoPville,

I was near the UCLA campus this weekend and noticed several of these diagonal crosswalks. It looked like an efficient way to move large numbers of pedestrians at once, thus clearing the way for smoother automobile traffic, since all crosswalks have a walk sign at the same time.

I’m wondering if one of these would work at the intersection of 14th and Irving, which is one of the worst intersections in Columbia Heights. Metro Buses would be able to make a right turn from Irving to Southbound 14th without having to wait for pedestrians. During rush hour, sometimes only one or two cars are able to make a right or left turn after pedestrians have cleared the crosswalks.

What do the readers think and who in the city is in charge of traffic design?”

We actually have one in Chinatown too – it’s called a Barnes Dance from 7th and H St, NW:


DDOT was in charge, more info from a press release issued in 2010:

“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.

14 Comment

  • Think Cinque Terre, Vernazza, how about no motor vehicles instead!?

  • Unfortunately, DDOT has become much slower and less innovative under Bellamy than it was under Klein. But yes, 14th and Irving would be a great place for a Barnes Dance.

  • PDleftMtP

    One problem is that pedestrians here routinely ignore pedestrian signals. People walk against the signal across green-arrow turns all. the. time. If you don’t have people *not* crossing during the greens, I’m not sure the traffic jam gets any better.

    I’m not pro- or anti-car, pedestrian, or cyclist in setting the rules, since I’m all three at one time or another, but the rules only help to the extent people follow them.

    • That is a big problem. They do it at the intersection of 14th and Park, too. I think that the Barnes Dance (love the name) would help alleviate this because it would diminish the build-up of people waiting. Also, unlike in Chinatown, most of the people in Columbia Heights are locals and so will learn the intersection over time and will be more likely to use the diagonal crossing.

      • I don’t know. I go through that intersection in Chinatown typically once a day. Most of the people walking through it do not appear to be tourists (maybe in the summer it is different, but not at the moment). They appear to be people who work in the area. And none of them cross correctly despite the intersection having markings and usually a DDOT person working it in the evening.

  • Great idea. As I remember, they have had them in Philadelphia for decades.

  • Tangentially related, part of the problem at 14th and Irving is the timing of the lights. I don’t think they accurately reflect the amount of cross-city traffic from Irving Street, choosing to prioritize 14th. I’ve been driving in DC for 5 years now, and I find 16th Street to be an easier artery than 14th, simply because of amount of construction on 14th and the timing of the lights to be prohibitive.

    I think it would be helpful for DDOT to make the timing of the lights somewhat more equitable. They should also change the crosswalk lights and either add a right turn arrow or have a delayed crosswalk signal to allow some traffic to pass through. The amount of traffic on Irving Street at any given time is absurd, and I think they could be doing more to alleviate that.

  • jburka

    Technically there’s a Barnes Dance at 13th and S by Garrison Elementary during school hours. Neither the N/S nor E/W traffic has a matching walk signal and there’s a third segment to the light cycle that allows diagonal crossing. But there are no pavements markings nor diagonally-facing walk signals.

    There’s a lot that could be done to improve pedestrian traffic in DC. Getting it done seems unlikely, at least for now.

  • I emailed Jim Graham about this exact issue last summer. He wrote back that “as a pedestrian and a driver” he is in complete agreement with this approach. He passed along my email to some DDOT folks, but I haven’t seen anything done since then (July 2013). I realize things can take a while, and testing and surveys need to be completed, but that intersection is atrocious.

    At the very least, right turn/ left turn signals from Irving onto 14th would alleviate some of the problems. Drivers get frustrated and then run red lights as a result. I’d rather wait an extra 10 seconds as a pedestrian and have traffic flowing better (and safer)

    • “I’d rather wait an extra 10 seconds as a pedestrian and have traffic flowing better (and safer).”
      I’m with you, but my observations at that intersection suggest that we are in the minority. Everything fix I think of at that intersection ultimately hinges on pedestrians obeying the walk signals and I’m not optimistic about that. Then again, the only thing that might actually discourage jaywalking is free-flowing vehicle traffic.

  • The biggest problem I can foresee with this is that many cyclists will not stop and wait for the pedestrians to cross but rather try to ride through them.

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