Thursday, April 14, 2011

Goodbye Barnes Dance, hello mayoral candidates

Orange plastic shrouds mark the end of an era.
If you've been in downtown Denver since Monday, you may have noticed that the diagonally facing crosswalk signals have been covered in orange plastic since Monday. The option for pedestrians to cross diagonally at intersections, otherwise known as the Barnes Dance after former Denver traffic engineer Henry Barnes, has gone the way of the dodo.

The Barnes Dance fell victim to the nature of its inherent geometry and disadvantageous timing. As with many of life's challenges, illumination with regard to this instance draws upon the Pythagorean theorem, which states that in a right triangle, the square of the length of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the lengths of the other two sides. Applied to the Barnes Dance, the distance across the hypotenuse (diagonal crosswalk) is greater than that of either of its sides (perpendicular crosswalks). You might say, "Okay, so Pythagoras says it is farther to cross diagonally than it is to cross perpendicularly. So what?"

Ah, but if that is your response, then you may have forgotten the "disadvantageous timing" part of the first sentence in the preceding paragraph. The timing problem arises with new standards for the average walking speed attributed to pedestrians. Apparently present day pedestrians traverse less ground per second than did pedestrians during the era in which the Barnes Dance came into being, increasing the time needed to complete a diagonal crossing, thus throwing a wrench into the timing of a three phase traffic signal cycle. Slow walkers, whatever their reason, contributed to the demise of the Barnes Dance. However you frame it, the decreased speed of pedestrians equates to a sad commentary on society.
The hypotenuse is no longer an option. Way to go, slowpokes.
In bike news, check out the answers to a bicycle issues questionnaire put to the Denver mayoral candidates by BikeDenver. If you are a Denver voter and ride a bike, it is important for you to understand where the candidates fall in relation to your concerns. Thanks to BikeDenver for this valiant effort to inform the bicyclists of Denver.
Let's encourage the next Mayor to make bicycling in Denver even better.
As a postscript, congrats to Chris at Pavement's Edge on your new longtail bikes. May they carry you and yours far and with fun.

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