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The Denver Diatribe

The Denver Diatribe

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The Last Waltz for Denver's Celebrated "Barnes Dance"?

Posted: 04/14/11 12:57 PM ET

The list of innovations Denver has contributed to the world at large is pretty small, but we're darn proud of the stuff we have provided -- namely, the culinary masterpiece that is the Denver Omelet, the nifty snap buttons developed by Rockmount Ranch Wear, the infamously debilitating Denver Boot wheel lock and the innovative diagonal crosswalk affectionately known as the "Barnes Dance." That's why we're sad to see one of our homegrown contributions go.

We're talking about the Barnes Dance, aka the "pedestrian scramble," the ability to cross diagonally across 45 of the intersections downtown, since traffic stops in all directions to allow walkers free reign across the blacktop. The process is named after Denver's first traffic engineer, Henry Barnes, who dreamed up the innovative technique in the 1940s to clear up downtown's congestion woes. The move worked so well that cities around the world followed suit, with pedestrians across the globe Barnes Dancing to their hearts content.

But, as we discuss on this week's Denver Diatribe, now that waltz is ending, at least where it all began: thanks to new traffic configurations going into place, the Barnes Dance will come to an end in Denver on May 14.

Denver Diatribe Podcast #28 clip: The end of the Barnes Dance by Denver Diatribe
(To listen to the entire episode, click here.)

Now, there seems to be a perfectly reasonable explanation for this -- something about recalibrating downtown traffic patterns and adding more flexibility to the city's light-rail program. Similar efforts to streamline traffic flow in other cities have, in fact, been shown to save billions in efficiency costs, not to mention lowered carbon dioxide emissions and decreased fatal accidents.

But, like all red-blooded Americans, we here at the Diatribe laugh in the face of reason, and poke efficiency in the eye. We're prone to irrational attitudes and pithy slogans, and in this case, that's exactly what we're gonna do.

The Barnes Dance, after all, is an institution, one of the few Denver has left. See those bright yellow Denver Boots stuck on scofflaw cars around town? Turns out they're not Denver Boots at all; thanks to cost-cutting measures, the city no longer contracts with the company that makes the Denver Boot. That's right: now we have Milwaukee Boots, or maybe Cleveland Boots, or maybe even China Boots. The horror! The horror!

That's why we've got to do everything we can to save the Barnes Dance. As Coloradans, we need to stand up for our God-given right to mosey unfettered across intersections, like the mighty buffalo across the plains. It's time to join together in synchronized flash mobs across downtown, hundreds coming together in solidarity at each of the city's 45 endangered Barnes Dance intersections. And if not that, somebody should at least start a Facebook page about it. Or just come up with a pithy slogan. How about "Give Barnes Dance a chance! Give Barnes Dance a chance!"

Maybe, just maybe, the lords of traffic engineering will hear our irrational pleas and let our grand proletariat waltz continue.

In the meantime, at least we still have snap buttons.

The Denver Diatribe is a weekly podcast about culture, politics and stuff as it pertains to Denver, Colorado. Listen to "Denver Diatribe Podcast #28: Extortion in wine country and other things Max Potter wants to talk about edition" and other episodes at Denverdiatribe.com. Subscribe to the Denver Diatribe on iTunes and check them out on Facebook.

 

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