What are stop signs for? Part 4

Continued from Part 3

The personal upshot…

I have decided that stop signs that are installed solely to slow traffic do not apply to me. I’m already going less than the speed limit, about 15 mph, and I don’t need to be slowed down, so the purpose of the stop sign does not apply. Instead, the correct behavior is to slow, look, and proceed when it is safe. I will follow the standard yielding rules, as they apply. This behavior is codified in the “Idaho stop law” (Idaho Statutes | Streetsblog). Though I know it is against the law in California, it is the rational and safe behavior.

I am much less sure about safe bicyclist behavior at red lights. The Idaho stop law allows bicyclist to proceed after they have stopped and there is no conflicting traffic. I’m still thinking about this one.

What are stop signs for? Part 3

Continued from Part 2 (note: I posted this part 3 early, and then had to delete it, my apologies)

stop-slashAs part of my job, I spend a lot of time at intersections observing the behavior of motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. What I observe is that about 20% of motor vehicle drivers come to a full legal stop at stop signs, when there are no other vehicles present that might cause a collision. What about bicyclists? Wait for it… About 20% of bicyclists come to a full legal stop at stop signs. Yet the perception of many motor vehicle drivers is that they are stopping and bicyclists are not. Motor vehicles drivers complain in letters to the editor, news shows, blog comments, and conversations about flagrant violations of the law by bicyclists, which they either say or imply should result in harsh enforcement, restrictions on where bicyclists may ride, and “licensing.” A few crazies even say that it is OK to run down a bicyclist who is violating the law. But the fact of the matter is that bicyclist and motor vehicle driver behaviors are nearly identical when it comes to stop signs.

What are stop signs for? Part 2

Continued from Part 1

Streets should be designed to induce traffic speeds that are appropriate to that street, consistent with surrounding uses. In my mind, that means 20 mph in residential areas and up to 30 mph in commercial areas. What about all those other roadways? They are mis-designed stroads. Properly designed streets:

  1. have a grid pattern so that use is spread out rather than concentrated on a few streets, so that intersections may functions without stop sign or signal control
  2. have good visibility at intersections
  3. have both physical constraints and visual clues to ensure that they are used at the intended speed
  4. have a minimum of signs

Of course that is largely not what we have now. What to do?

r1-2The solutions to an excess of stop signs are:

  1. Roundabouts, covered in my previous post What is a roundabout?
  2. Spread out traffic by installing traffic calming equally on parallel streets, rather than focusing traffic on select streets by installing traffic calming on other streets.
  3. Change intersections to increase visibility, by modification or removal or vegetation, fences, and parking.
  4. Replace four-way stops with two-way stops where there are sufficient gaps in traffic on the busier street.
  5. Replace both four-way and two-way stops with two-way yields, with the yield signs being on the lower traffic street.
  6. Remove all signs from low traffic streets, and allow vehicles normal yielding behavior at the intersection.
  7. Analyze all intersections over time to assess whether signing is really necessary, with the default assumption being that it is not.

I suspect that after analyzing intersections for the purpose of the stop sign, and alternate solutions, the number of stop signs would be reduced by at least 60%. Safety would not be reduced. Speeds would not increase. Both motor vehicle drivers and bicycle drivers would be happier.