60 years later - should we dump the Queen St Barnes Dance?

August 27, 2018

60 years later - should we dump the Queen St Barnes Dance?

Auckland Town Hall and Upper Queen Street c. 1960 Ref: PAColl-7756-1-121. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23225287

It’s the dance we’ve all done down Queen St but it's not popular with everyone.

Last week marked the 60-year anniversary of the Barnes Dance system in New Zealand, which stops all traffic at an intersection, allowing people to cross in any direction at the same time.

Auckland was the first New Zealand city to make this change in 1958, which was then picked up across the country.

However, deputy director of lobby group Greater Auckland Patrick Reynolds says New Zealand is still treating vehicles as the “VIP” and is “miles away” from giving pedestrians real priority.

“If you have a Barnes Dance where [only] one traffic cycle is for pedestrians…then you get the situation in Auckland when there are literally hundreds of people standing on the street corners waiting for three separate cars to have special treatment on a right hand turn.

“Every single building on [Queen Street] you have to enter on foot. There is, in fact, no purpose for a car to be on Queen St, other than rat running through it,” says Reynolds.

There has been more development of shared spaces for pedestrians and vehicles, and Reynolds says we should look overseas to see cities such as Paris that are making their cities car-free.

“We’re making progress, but we’ve got a long way to go. We have to decide, and we need to decide soon, where we allow cars.

“If we were really world-leading, we would have no private cars in the Queen St valley.”

Patrick Reynolds’ suggestions:

  • Complete the lane-way network which would join up all the shared spaces.
  • Take out all RH turns so vehicles could only turn left, or go straight ahead.
  • Take all private cars out of Queen St, leaving only buses, emergency and service vehicles.
  • Restrict deliveries to specific times of the day, outside of peak times and rush hours.

Henry A Barnes did not invent the concept, but popularised it in Denver, Baltimore and New York, where he worked as a traffic commissioner in the 1940s.

Auckland Transport did not respond to inquiries by publication time.

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