Barnes Dance, Queen Street, Auckland
Barnes Dance, Queen Street, Auckland

The Queen Street Barnes Dance is a joy to use. The Barnes Dance, AKA – pedestrian scramble is an intersection design from the 1940’s that has since fallen out of favour with both traffic engineers and even urban nerds like Jeff Speck who cautions that only big cities with pedestrian crowding should use them:

The Barnes Dance was introduced to avoid conflicts between turning vehicles and pedestrians in crosswalks, another example of “pedestrian safety” being used as as an excuse to limit pedestrian convenience in the service of traffic flow.

The Queen Street Barnes Dance is in a league of its own. With such heavy pedestrian demand the scramble phase has been doubled through the typical signal timing cycle, making it highly useful for people walking, especially if their movement is diagonal.  Increasingly, the scrambles or dedicated pedestrian phases are being used around other intersections in the CBD. You may stumble upon them accidently and eventually realise their use, or maybe you’ve stepped off a corner and had a close call with a bus.

For a little holiday fun, here’s a contest to see if you know your Barnes Dance/Pedestrian Scramble/Dedicated cycle. Likely you will be guessing since there is a very little indication on the ground. For the record I am guessing on at least two of them.

A. QUEEN ST – Is this a Barnes Dance


B. Karangahape Road / Mercury Lane 


C. Queen Street / Quay Street


D. Symonds Street / Grafton Road


E. Symonds Street 


F. Karangahape Rd/ Symonds St 


Of course the takeaway is that there are many simple ways to better demarcate both pedestrian crossings generally and Barnes Dances specifically.

Share this


  1. Some guesses…

    A. Yes
    B. Yes (a guess, but the markings indicate it)
    C. No
    D. Yes (even though there are very limited markings. Might be considered no because there is a phase where only one pedestrian crossing (over Albert St) is allowed.
    E. No (and Yes, if St Paul St and the left turn from Wellesley via Princes in Symonds St are excluded. They are only zebra crossings. Note the aerial is older, the crossing has since been moved northwards)
    F. No (a guess)

    The Symonds/Grafton really needs to be better marked to show it is a barnes dance.

      1. C and F (and I *think* D, not sure) have both been changed to Barnes Dances since the intersection was built (and painted). Problem is this only adds to the ambiguity of how to tell which intersections are and are not set up like that. D’s markings are counterintuitive.

  2. Last September, I wrote to Auckland Transport requesting that the Barnes Dance intersections be better demarcated for pedestrians and drivers, essentially, just a few licks of paint and a sign. Here is the reply:

    “Road markings tend to vary from intersection to intersection because the configuration of the intersection may dictate one marking layout rather than another.

    The cross-walk lines are a guide to the pedestrian, and the traffic signal aspect of the green-man and the red-man is what controls the pedestrian. We suggest that if in doubt, pedestrians check for the green-man in both directions before proceeding.”

    Thus, AT doesn’t plan to change anything.

    1. Bizarre answer- but par for the course. So are the green men twisted diagonally “to control the pedestrian”? Good on ya for writing the letter.

  3. There’s a Barnes Dances here: , which seems an unlikely place to have one and makes me wonder what traffic situation makes a Barnes Dance warranted.

    Re the markings: I think that Barnes Dances should have consistent markings as to not create confusion and accidental step-ins – remember the confused tourists mentioned in the comments recently? Moreover, by not having consistent markings we’re ‘underselling’ the advantages of these intersections to pedestrians. (We already have these amenities in place, now let’s make the most of them!)

    1. Good example of a Barnes Dance that is not an improvement. Also, I agree with your sentiment “let’s make the most of them” why keep them a secret? Make them iconic.

  4. There’s also a Barnes dance on the intersection of Manukau Road and Ranfurly Road (Epsom). Not sure exactly why, maybe due to a school nearby, similar to above? Going through on the bus in peak times, it doesn’t seem to get as much pedestrian usage as it might warrant. But then again, it’s probably handy if you want to cross diagonally, as normally you have to know the phasing of the lights to choose which direction to go in (anti-clockwise vs clockwise), depending on the phases when you turn up to the intersection…!

  5. 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. There should be badges for collecting them all. I know this proposal is ‘inefficient’. I don’t care. Reclaim the streets!

  6. symonds/k/Grafton and symonds/grafton/ Alfred are not Barnes dances. hence they are not marked as such. they have exclusive ped phases where all marked crossings run at the same time. there is a difference. frequent users just cross whichever direction they want as they know they have plenty of time to cross diagonally even if that crossing is not marked.

  7. Here are two more Barnseses in city:

    Britomart Pl/Customs St/Emily Pl,174.770353&spn=0.000954,0.001659&t=u&z=20

    Kitchener St/Bowen Ave/Victoria St,174.766923&spn=0.000477,0.000829&t=u&z=21

    The incredibly infuriating thing about these examples is they are already all-stop phases that allow for a pedestrian scramble, they simply aren’t marked or have lights for them. Not only are they not marked for the Barnes, they aren’t even marked for the fourth crossing! Just to reiterate, the phases already stop all traffic at these intersections during the crossing phase.

    1. Nick , I don’t think Britomart Pl/Customs St/Emily Pl is consistantly so throughout the day. When I pass in the morning it seems to be, but several times in afternoons I have had to check myself from stepping into traffic on hearing the petestrian signal for a different road,

      1. I think it’s based on the beg buttons, not time of day. If you push the beg button to cross the mouth of Britomart Place or Emily/Fort, only those legs go. The Barnes Dance only activates if you push the button to cross Customs Street. This is a pain if you want to cross from e.g. the east side of Britomart Place to the corner of Beach Rd + Emily Place, since you can’t activate the crossing from where you are.

        1. It is indeed a pain, I think it is worth pointing out that the crossing you describe (the east side of Britomart Place to the corner of Beach Rd + Emily Place) is the most direct and logical route between Britomart Station and most of the university campus. Why there isn’t even a beg button let alone a marked crossing, I don’t know.

          1. Beach Road is yet another road that is far too wide and wrecks the local environment. I presume it may well date from when trucks used that road to access the wharves from the Viaduct to Queens Wharf. However there are no wharves here anymore so no need for truck standard roads.
            At least West of Tangihua St should get rid of the median and a westbound traffic lane, and use this to widen the pavements on the south side. This would cut width from 6 lanes to 4 which would help street life.

  8. I was just looking at something and came across this ….

    The roads obsessed Orakei local board who campaigned to get bus lanes downgraded to T3 have been asking AT to investigate a couple of Barnes Dances along Remuera Rd. One perhaps big one at the Remuera Rd / Clonbern Rd/
    Victoria Ave intersection and one at the Upland Rd / Remuera Road intersection. AT’s response is they won’t do it as it would have a negative effect on Remuera Rd efficiency. They say one used to be at the first location but was removed in the late 90’s due to complaints from locals (i.e. car drivers from further out). Sounds like another case of putting long distance drivers ahead of local interests.

  9. I love them, but they need to be taken with caution, as a Barnes Dance WITHOUT double-phasing (i.e. cars run along one axis, then peds, then cars on other axis, then peds) can actually badly INCREASE pedestrian waiting time if you dont want to go diagonal.

    So in that sense, yes, they aren’t a magic bullet. But where peds are heavy, and we can convince the traffic people that peds should be prioritised, they are pretty awesome.

Leave a Reply