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Piece of Cake #1, Barnes Dance Repair

This is a follow up to our recent Piece of Cake posts and general discussions around walkability in Auckland. Over the next several weeks we will be posting summary sheets that compile many of the issues identified in the posts. Ultimately, we will organise the sheets and comments into a document to submit to them to people that care (hello?).

Feel free to comment, critique, re-order or otherwise provide input. As you’ll see below, we’ve had to limit the locations to five (which wasn’t easy). It would be good to list additional places where relevant conditions exist.

The first sheet is related to dedicated pedestrian cycles AKA Barnes Dances. Thanks DavidO for the money quote.

“Barnes dance crossings are one of the very few (only) glories of traffic management in Auckland. We should make every crossroads a Barnes dance and the city should market them as a tourist attraction. I know this proposal is ‘inefficient’. I don’t care. Reclaim the streets!”




46 comments to Piece of Cake #1, Barnes Dance Repair

  • DF

    Customs St and Britomart Place is the worst — a full barnes dance at the same time that traffic from Britomart Place has a free left turn. Time to fix it, AT!

  • Can I add the Victoria St / Albert St as a #6 to that? It’s a main walking route between Queen St and SkyCity, and on the walking route between the Aotea precinct and the Inner Link as well as a whole lot of other bus routes.

  • I’ll add it. I’ve just kept it to 5 for graphic reasons.

  • Ari

    I don’t think these all have Barnes dance phases. The crossings just all run at the same time which is something different. No diagonals are marked because it is not intended but it isn’t discouraged either.
    1,3,5 are probably good sites to mark the diagonals in an interesting way. 2 is not a true Barnes dance,is probably too big to permit one and I don’t know if there is big enough diagonal demand. also anything other than white lines would create confusion. 4 is an unusual case. you can paint in one crossing where there could be one but you can’t easily make changes to accommodate a true Barnes dance phase there.

    • Steve D

      2 and 4 do both have a full Barnes Dance phase, although some crossings can go independently as well. Why do you think Symonds/K Rd is too big? It’s no bigger than Queen St/Victoria etc.

    • Max

      You will find that the PRACTICAL difference between “all ped phases run at the same time” and “Barnes dance” is pretty much nil.

      Also, size has nothing to do with whether a Barnes Dance works or not. Some Japanese Barnes dances are twice the size of these. And as somebody who uses it a lot, yes there is some significant cross-movement at K Road / Symonds Street.

      • Ari

        Max, the difference is that diagonal crossings are not intended and therefore not marked. In the Auckland context size does matter. It is not a case of just marking in some diagonal crossings. Again I reiterate whether there is enough cross movement to justify the added delay to the significant numbers of buses through the intersection.

    • Stu Donovan

      Ari, I’m not a signals expert but I think Max is right.

      Is not the only practical difference between “crossings running at same time” and a “Barnes dance” that in the latter you have to allow for diagonal ped movements? And that the diagonal is a very slightly longer distance that in turn requires a very slightly longer pedestrian amber signal (i.e. flashing red man)?

      Are we right? Or are we wrong? Be good to know …

      • Admittedly there are some difference in the intersections listed. As Steve D mentions, some of these intersections have ped phases indepent of the full scramble. For clarity I will add break these examples out from pure Barnes dances.

        • Stu Donovan

          I think that’s a very technical difference. There’s nothing to say that Barne’s dance can’t incorporate specific pedestrian phases on some approaches during the cycle for vehicle movements as well.

      • Max

        As qwert below mentions, theoretically, one could have an “all peds phase” with filter turns operating at the same time. Apart from making a bit of a mockery of the term, I don’t know anywhere this happens – probably for the very sane reason that pedestrians figure out the new “Barnes Dance” about 2 days after it is installed (or 2 minutes, for the more observant ones) and act like it is an intentional one. Thus, signals engineers are well advised if they don’t then introduce filters.

        And why would you? Oh, because of car capacity. Well, no, thanks, we are talking of improving ped capacity. If need be, at vehicle capacity’s cost. That’s kinda the point – if we only do things for peds where they don’t have any impact on cars at all, then the costs of making a more people-friendly city explode / it becomes plain impossible.

      • Ari

        Stu, slightly longer means probably an extra 10sec, depending on the geometry of the interestion. The vast majority of pedestrians won’t use the extra 10s so it only increases everyone’s delay. That is a lot in the whole scheme of things. I think Kent needs to be prepared to be rebuffed by AT a few times. 2,4 are not Barnes dances.

  • qwerty

    the locations along the bottom that are identified as precedents aren’t. They are merely locations where a barnes dance has been installed. Without some relationship between the problems of the proposed and existing locations they don’t serve much purpose as you will just have people like me saying ‘so what, this isn’t a case study”

    are you intending to submit some other documentation with them? something along the lines of a brief, identified problem (not just bad for peds) and some reason as to why a barnes dance would be a reasonable solution?

    the money shot/quote that you have added wouldn’t stand much scrutiny either, no transport planner/engineer would think that creating a tourist attraction out of a CBD intersection would be a good idea and could easily dismiss the whole exercise just on that.

    Without some words along side it (almost like a concept/scheme assessment) the proposals wont have much life in them. However, if you actually identify, critically, the problems then people will listen.

    I like the idea though.

    • Stu Donovan

      qwerty qwerty qwerty.

      The point is that this intersection already operates as a Barnes dance, with simultaneous pedestrian phases on all approaches. The only “problem” to be solved is some paint and lights to show pedestrians that they can make diagonal movements. Apart from that the status quo is maintained.

      • qwerty

        my point exactly, from the information in the post and the picture poster where does it state what the issue is and where does it say that it is an existing barnes dance installation? remember a lot of AT guys sit out west and wouldn’t have the foggiest as to how this intersection operates.

        also a barnes dance stops all vehicle movements, where as an all ped phase can cater for partial filter movements at the same time. a subtle but important distance that means you cant just paint diagonal markings on the road.

        • Stu Donovan

          pictures can only communicate so much. If the AT guys out west can’t be bothered to look up SCATs info about how this intersection is phased based on this post then they should perhaps look for another job. Re: partial filter – agree, but not relevant at this intersection; hence it’s simple fix.

          There is a left turn slip lane with an island, but that’s by the by – you could either incorporate it into the signals or mark the pedestrian crossing to lead onto the island. There’s a number of these quasi-Barnes’ dances around the city and it’s fairly clear that they exist purely for lack of thought, not purposeful design. The purpose of POC is to highlight them; I’d suggest AT take note.

          • qwerty

            As far as I am aware only the JTOC has easy access to SCATS and/or phasing info. I wouldn’t write off the majority of staff just because they don’t go and spend a heap of time researching something just because it appears in a blog.

  • dan again

    The main issue with Barnes dances is that they are very inefficient capacity wise. Even more so when they are double phased like the ones on queen st.

    In some cases this is fine as you may not want the route being a high capacity vehicle route. In other cases the road my have a major bus route running along it, like symonds st, in which case a Barnes dance will do more harm than good.

    • Steve D

      I like the way you use “capacity” without any qualifier and assume we’ll know that what you really mean is vehicle capacity. For people, Barnes dances are very efficient capacity wise, especially if they are double-phased.

      • Max


        They are like a “pedestrian priority measure” (i.e. the traffic engineering variant of the dreaded “bus priority measure”). Watch the transport dinosaurs decry it as “providing extra space for pedestrians that is empty 99% of the time” ;-)

      • dan again

        Seems I’m blocked again.

      • dan again

        Ahh back again.

        When I said capacity before I meant for all users not just cars, hence why I didn’t say it. The reason the queen st ones work so well is because they have two phases per cycle. If they only got one phase they would have a lower level of service for pedestrians than a normal crossing.

        • Steve D

          No they don’t. A normal crossing has pedestrian phases twice as often, but since only one of the two phases is useful to you there’s only a useful pedestrian phase once per cycle, same as a single phase Barnes dance. And since a Barnes dance is better for crossing diagonally, it’s improved service.

          • Max

            Steve D – actually, dan again is quite right here. Single-phased barnes dances can very much be a WORSE outcome for pedestrians. First west-east goes, then north-south goes, then peds go. A double-phased one puts another ped phase between step 1 and 2.

            A good example for a single phase one is Gillies Avenue / Owens Road. It has a Barnes Dance (complete with diagonal markings!), presumably installed because of the nearby school. But because of Gillies Avenue being so car-dominated, they only single-phased this one. Result? You wait a LOOONG time. And if you are NOT crossing diagonally, you are likely to wait painfully long in comparison to a normal phasing – because the diagonal crossings mean longer ped clearance times, meaning longer overall cycle time etc…

          • Steve D

            Well if you lengthen the cycle, of course pedestrians will have to wait longer. So don’t lengthen the cycle!

        • Liz

          Your two comments about phasing seem to contradict each other. First you have said “The main issue with Barnes dances is that they are very inefficient capacity wise. Even more so when they are double phased like the ones on queen st.”, then “The reason the queen st ones work so well is because they have two phases per cycle.”. So, are the barnes dances more or less efficient when they are double phased?

          • dan again

            I’m saying the queen st ones work well for pedestrians due to the double phasing, they however completely kill vehicle movement which I think is fine in this case.

            If they went back to single phasing you will find you are waiting aged to cross the road again.

      • Stu Donovan

        yes, and he uses “capacity” in the context of an intersection that already operates as a Barnes dance, so formally operating it as such would involve no change (or very little) in vehicle capacity.

    • SteveC

      dan, in the case of a major bus route, the phasing can be matched with B phases or other bus priority measures, it’s a question of producing the right package,

      as for vehicle capacity, well, you’d only put double phased barnes dances in where pedestrians are the clear majority of road users as on Queen St (over 75% of people from possibly faulty memory), drivers can take a metaphoric “back seat” for once

      • Barneses work very well where you have side bus lanes, because left turning traffic and straight ahead buses can proceed on the same phase without one or the other delayed by a independent pedestrian phase. So you can clear left turns ahead of buses (and buses ahead of left turning traffic) simultaneously, without needing the two movements to weave and/or have space eating slip lanes. They’re also very handy where you have two major bus routes intersect, as every connection between bus stops can be made with a single pedestrian crossing, even the diagonal. Right now on some larger intersections you need to cross a slip lane, make one signallised crossing, then a second signallised crossing, then cross another slip lane.

        • dan again

          How does a Barnes dance that allows no vehicle movements help clear out left turn lanes and bus lanes?

          • Because all the pedestrian movents happen at the same time, which means they don’t happen separately in parallel to certain traffic movements, or across turning movements. It means no more ‘turning traffic give way to peds’, as one pernitent example.

            It simply means anytime you have a straight through movement you can also have a left turn movement, unblocked by a pedestrian phase. That is exactly the point of slip lanes, this allows the same outcome.

          • dan again

            I don’t see how it would work better than a normal intersection however.

  • Frank E

    I don’t know how the blog can support that ‘every’ (i emphasise every) crossing be a barnes dance. They have their place but do you think it’s a great idea to have it on say Te Irirangi Dr & Ti Rakau Dr or any other auto-oriented intersection.

    Maybe add a disclaimer about using common sense in the quote.

    • Max

      Ah, don’t water down enthusiasm from the start. Watered down enthusiasm is a very boring drink and makes for very bad performance. Go for it, folks.

    • Stu Donovan

      what Max and Steve D said. Or if you’d like some Kahlil GIbran:

      “Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul, if either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.”

  • Sweet as

    Close down beach rd / customs street east west movement close down any chance of reducing vehicle reductions on quay street.

    Why would a functional city require across town movements?

    • Max

      Because I live in suburb A and want to go to surbub B which is across from me on the other side of the city centre?

      Cross-movements aren’t evil. Car movements aren’t evil. What is “evil” is how much we have allowed them to dominate all other form of transport and place function.

    • Hardly. You don’t need six car maximised lanes on Customs and six lanes on Quay to handle a few people driving from Orakei to Ponsonby. Sorting out the port movements and access to the motorways via the Strand renders Quay St unnecessary for vehicle traffic, while Customs could easily accommodate the remaining traffic, even with the horror of a slight increase in pedestrian phase time.

      • Ari

        based on my observations, there isn’t much cross traffic. all the people blocking up Quay st in the morning aren’t heading up fanshawe, they are going up the side streets and up hobson etc. I think that if quay st were WB only in the morning and EB only in the PM peak, then you would save so much road space.

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