Just last month, Salt Lake City opened one of America’s first Dutch Junctions, an intersection that incorporates protected bicycle lanes. The move was celebrated as a sign that the United States is finally getting serious about building bicycle infrastructure with an eye towards increasing ridership.
Ironically, it is happening just as the Dutch are moving away from these intersections and beginning to embrace a brilliantly simple alternative called Simultaneous Green. Here’s how it works.
Nice, huh? If you try to explain Simultaneous Green, most people assume it slows down traffic flow because stopping ALL motor vehicle traffic has to slow things down, right? As you can see from the video, it doesn’t. It actually speeds things up…not just for cyclists but for motorists as well. This is because everybody gets their own space and time and there are none of the conflicts so common in the present system.
Simultaneous Green is not without precedent. In fact, the city of Denver Colorado used a similar methodology in pedestrian crosswalks for many years. It was called the Barnes Dance, and it was named for the traffic engineer who came up with the methodology. I worked in Denver during the 1980s and thought the Barnes Dance was beautifully elegant. When pedestrians were in the intersection, motor vehicles weren’t. When motor vehicles were in the intersection, pedestrians weren’t. Everybody had their own time and space and so they could get about clearing the intersection without worrying about being hit or who had the right of way.
Denver’s diagonal intersections were eliminated in 2011 due to a move by the Regional Transportation District to run longer light rail trains that blocked intersections while sitting in stations, but to this day the city maintains pedestrian-only walk cycles that eliminate pedestrian-motor vehicle conflict.
It’s not just a Denver thing. Cities from Chicago to Tokyo have implemented Barnes Dance intersections. It’s time for American cities to look at Simultaneous Green as well. It is a simple and elegant solution to the “intersection problem” that requires no expensive infrastructure to implement. It will keep cyclists safe and allow all road users to be on their way with minimal inconvenience and wait.