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Are Barnes Dance crossing signals coming back to NYC?

Regardless of where you live, there's no denying that being a pedestrian has become a decidedly more dangerous proposition in recent years. That's because walkers must not only deal with longstanding dangerous driving practices such as speeding and running red lights, but also the emergence of distracted driving.

Indeed, the issue of keeping pedestrians safe is especially pressing here in New York City, as statistics show that the number of pedestrian traffic fatalities reached 145 in 2016.

The good news is that city officials are not only aware of the problem, but actively taking steps to rectify it. Indeed, it launched the Vision Zero Action Plan back in 2014, which outlined a number of policies to help reduce traffic-related injuries and deaths in the years ahead, including placing pedestrians at the center of street design.

In keeping with this effort, the City Council passed legislation just last week ordering the Department of Transportation to undertake a study on the feasibility of installing Barnes Dance crossing systems at 25 high-risk intersections across the city.

Named after former NYC Traffic Commissioner Henry Barnes, Barnes Dance crossing systems call for all traffic -- cars, trucks, bikes and buses -- to come to a complete stop when active, meaning no left or right turns, and for pedestrians to be free to cross to any corner.

While there is only a handful of Barnes Dance crossing systems currently operating in the Big Apple, they are a fixture in cities around the world from Tokyo to San Francisco. Advocates argue that they not only keep pedestrians safer, but also allow them to get from Point A to Point B much faster.

Those who might question the need for Barnes Dance crossing systems should consider that 1) a 2014 DOT study revealed as many as one in four pedestrians killed in motor vehicle accidents in the city were in the crosswalk and crossing with the signal, and 2) a 2012 report from City College found that pedestrian accidents were reduced by 50 percent in test areas with these signals.

It will be interesting to see what decision the City Council takes after receiving the feasibility report from the DOT in August. Here's hoping it's the right one.

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights and your options for seeking justice.  

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