Red lights in all directions at this intersection allow people to cross diagonally from one corner to the other in the heart of Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown. This is called a Barnes Dance, as All Things Considered Host Melissa Block learned this week in an interview with Gideon Berger of the Urban Land Institute.
“It’s named after the pioneering traffic engineer, Henry Barnes,” says Berger.
Until last year, the city that had the most intersections of this kind in the United States was Denver, Colo., where Barnes once worked.
The conversation was part of the NPR Cities Project.
Traffic light timing may seem mundane but it affects us every day. And it’s tricky. Cities used to focus mostly on getting the times right for cars. But increasingly, they’re trying to take all modes of transportation into account.
“As they do that they’re making their jobs a little bit more complicated, but they’re also thinking about how people behave in the real world,” says Berger.
Photos: Franklyn Cater / NPR