Barnes Dance

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for jd avatar.jpgby jeff douglas

During my brief sojourn to Los Angeles ten years ago, I was witness to something in that changed my life. It was one of the greatest things I had ever seen.

I had witnessed my first Scramble.


The Scamble Intersection. Brilliance.

It allows pedestrians to pass diagonally - and legally - across a traffic intersection. Ergo, if one finds oneself on the NW corner and one would like to find oneself on the SE corner, one simply waits for the indicator that allows one to pass straight through the very bowels of the intersection!



I know!

I too, thought it was too good to be true. Could it be that gone were the days of uneconomic circumnavigation? How long had we laboured in vain against the widely understood (if theoretically contested) fact that the shortest disatnce between two points is a straight line? How many hours were carved from our collective exsistances by pointless walking left to go right? I had been to the mountain top: I had walked the hypotenuse.

Sure, it's not the Red Sea, but it's still pretty cool.

I was unsure, if this modern miracle was confined to Rodeo Drive. Unsure if perhaps, this was a singular, shining example of order carved into the universe's entropy by the quantum-like accelerations and decelerations of shopping heiresses.

It wasn't.

The Scramble intersection (or Pedestrian Scramble, or X Crossing, or Exclusive Pedestrian Phase Intersection, or Diagonal Crossing) exists around the world. We have them in Vancouver and Toronto; they're in Japan, the UK, the US, Europe (of course) and New Zealand to name but a few places that have seen the light.

But the first place they were ever used was in Denver, Colorado. The city's first professional traffic engineer, Henry Barnes, was its great proponent, and pushed to have the diagonal crossing implemented after witnessing his daughter's troubles in getting to her school. It is from his advocacy that the Scramble takes its most poetic moniker: The Barnes Dance -named because newsmen noted that Denver's walking class were so happy they were dancing in the street.

It was the dawn of a wonderful era in the life of the pedestrian.

Alas, poor Denver. They are skuttling the Scramble in the city of its very birth.

Long Live the Barnes Dance! 

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