Traffic demonstration to take place in Baltimore City this week

Benjamin McKnight

The Baltimore City Department of Transportation will host a Barnes Dance in downtown Baltimore this Friday to test new signal timings.

The event – named after Henry Barnes, who was Baltimore City’s traffic engineer in the 1950’s – will take place in the Pratt Street-Gay Street intersection in downtown Baltimore City. A deejay will be on hand and pedestrians will be walking, and dancing, across the street.

“On this day we really wanted to engage the public more by incorporating dance and music,” said Betty Smoot, the transportation department’s city planner. “We really wanted an opportunity to bring some fun to it by encouraging people to dance through the intersection.”

Smoot said that the transportation department wants to encourage safety, as well as educate the general public through an initiative called Towards Zero Baltimore.

“Towards Zero Baltimore aims to reduce, and eventually eliminate, traffic fatalities and serious injuries,” Smoot explained. “We wanted to utilize this [event] as an educational opportunity, to educate the general public about how this signal timing works but also get feedback from the community.”

The Pratt Street-Gay Street intersection is among the 10 highest in pedestrian-involved fatalities in the city, according to the transportation department, but there were other reasons for having the event there.

“This intersection is a t-intersection with two one-way streets, so the only phase that stops vehicles is the pedestrian phase,” said Graham Young, the deputy chief of traffic for the transportation department. “The signal timing is already set up so that a dance can be put in without any real changes, so there won’t be any additional delay to vehicles and drivers; pedestrians can still get the same amount of time.”

The event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on Friday. Traffic enforcement officers will be present to ensure that everyone crosses the street safely and in time.