Pedestrians still getting familiar with 'Barnes Dance' intersection

On the south end of Bde Maka Ska, X marks the spot of a new way for pedestrians to cross the busy intersection. But on this sunny summer afternoon, not everyone seems to know it's there.

"First time I ever noticed it to be honest. It's so unusual for a pedestrian to see something like that," said Trip Brubacher, who was out for a walk around the lakes. 

Last November, the city of Minneapolis installed a new traffic light sequence at Richfield Road and West Bde Maka Ska Parkway that stops all cars at the intersection long enough for people on foot to cross in any direction they want, including diagonally.

But in the two hours we were there, only a half dozen pedestrians actually used the diagonal crosswalks, while three times as many people took the traditional crosswalks around the edges of the intersection.

"I love it. I think it's a great idea. I've been using them in California. Chicago has them as well. It's nice to get that foot traffic moving. Once the cars get the hang of it, I think it's going to be great," said Marissa McMahon. 

"This is a pretty busy intersection, and I'd rather just kind of stick with the traditional ones where I think there's a little more allegiance to the traffic lights, at least for now," said Stefanee Bakke. 

City officials say anecdotally, they've gotten positive feedback on the "Barnes Dance" as it's known.

They say crews will keep tabs on how many people are using the pedestrian scramble during the warm weather months before considering whether to put them at other intersections in the city.

"We do see people tend to hit the one button then still cross the two legs, so there could be better communication. But generally, the audible message is clear at saying all crosswalks are on, and I think slowly people will get more comfortable using it," said Ryan Anderson, Senior Professional Engineer for the city's Traffic and Parking Services division.

After we pointed out the diagonal crosswalks, Brubacher used one on his return trip from the lake, and he gave the Barnes Dance a rave review.

"Fantastic. Fantastic. I wish I would have met you a long time ago," said Brubacher.