The Barnes Dance Soon a Thing of the Past- by Jennifer Prestwich your Henderson CO Expert

April 6, 2011


The Barnes Dance Soon a Thing of the Past in Denver

If you live in Denver, you have no doubt experienced the looks of envy from your out of state friends as you have crossed a downtown intersection on the diagonal without any risk of being arrested for jaywalking.  Some of the sassier residents of Denver have no doubt even filmed and photographed themselves breaking all known laws of physics and traffic by boldly strutting from one point to the next, talking the shortest route between two points, walking as the crow flies to get to the opposite corner!

Denver was among the first cities to use the diagonal crosswalk system, and is considered by some to be the inventor of them in the 1940s.  Cities around the world followed Denver’s example and began using the diagonal crosswalks.  The city of Denver has announced that it will discontinue the usage of the 45 diagonal crosswalks in the city starting May 14, 2011.

Traffic engineers say the the diagonal crosswalks are no longer working with the city traffic flow as they require all four directions of traffic to stop for 75 seconds to give pedestrians the right of way.  The new/old system will give each direction 90 seconds.

The diagonal crosswalks are believed to have been started by a man named Harry Barnes (Denver traffic engineer from 1947-1953) after he saw the difficulty that his daughter was having crossing busy intersections to get to school.  His idea was to stop all traffic so the crowds of people at busy intersections could all get where they were going at once.

At the time, a newspaper reporter claimed it made people so happy they were “dancing across the street”, thereby coining the phrase “the Barnes Dance” to describe the diagonal crossing.  Barnes never claimed to have invented it, just to have helped make it possible.

Sources for this article include KDVR-TV and National Wacky Questions.

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