By Carol Tannenhauser
“What will it take for the City to do something about its most dangerous intersections?” demanded City Council Member Helen Rosenthal last month, speaking at one of them – West 96th Street and West End Avenue.
On Wednesday, the City Council responded by unanimously passing Rosenthal’s legislation requiring the Department of Transportation “to study outfitting intersections with a pedestrian-exclusive signal phase,” according to a statement from Rosenthal’s office. “This is sometimes called a ‘Barnes Dance,’ which allows pedestrians to cross the street while vehicle traffic in all directions is at a full stop, so there’s no chance of a turning car hitting a pedestrian.” They will also be able to cross the street diagonally once all cars are stopped.
“The Barnes Dance lost favor with street engineers in the 1960’s because planning for cars took precedence,” Rosenthal said. “My bill seeks to reverse that, placing pedestrians at the center of policy making on street design, exactly where they should be. The Barnes Dance isn’t going to be appropriate at every intersection, but this analysis will help us identify where it is.”
West 96th and West End Avenue seems a good candidate. “While the West End Avenue redesign has meant a much safer West End Avenue,” according to Rosenthal’s website, “pedestrian injuries have persisted at its intersection with 96th Street. In fact, while total annual injuries along West End Avenue (excluding 96th Street) dropped from 15 in 2013 to 3 in 2016, the reverse has happened at 96th Street. Injuries at this intersection have increased from 3 in 2013 to 10 in 2016.”
Rosenthal’s bill will undoubtedly become law. While it requires the Mayor’s signature, any veto can be overturned by a 2/3s majority. The legislation passed 49-0.
There’ll be Barnes Dancing in the streets soon!
See a video below about the Barnes Dance in Washington D.C.