Home > Visual Stimulus > Graphic Friday: Want Traffic Calming? Don’t Start With Stop Signs

Graphic Friday: Want Traffic Calming? Don’t Start With Stop Signs

Graphic Friday

This graphic is adopted from a Traffic Calming presentation in September in Traverse City, but the concept’s idea is everywhere. The basics of the graphic show how stop signs can increase top speeds as people race between them. Not shown, but most of us can see how the noise (& pollution) increases closer to the intersection where stop signs are placed. This is caused by cars breaking, revving up and racing to the next stop sign (or worse, a green light). I experienced this yesterday, to some extent, while walking along Cass St. It was considerably louder closer to each intersection.

Often, when a group of neighbors get together and demand that something be done once and for all about traffic, they end up calling for stop signs. Stop signs do indeed have their place in the traffic management mix, but traffic calming is not considered one of them. In fact, they may make the situation worse or at best make the problem slightly different.

Apparently, even 4-way stop signs need careful consideration.

Where do we stop with stop signs?

Traffic calming’s approach is to reduce the extremes. This hopefully makes for a smoother flow, but also quieter, safer street corridor. Of course, without any traffic calming measures stop signs may just be better than nothing at all. Or, perhaps nothing is preferred. I used to live in a 15th floor apartment with a view of a four-way all-go and motorists always approached with caution.

Traffic author, Tom Vanderbilt recently explored the history and reconsideration of stop signs in a Slate article titled: Stop! Is it possible to design a better stop sign? It is worth a read It needs to be read by anyone arguing for a stop sign. In it, he describes the Catch-22 of the instrument:

“Residents of a neighborhood may complain about drivers speeding down their street and petition the city to install stop signs. But stop signs are not a safety device as such, nor a traffic-calming device: They exist to assign right of way. Faced with more stop signs, some studies have shown, drivers may actually drive faster to make up time lost for stopping at (or really, slowing through) the intersection; the more signs installed, the lower the compliance.

Certainly, we will discuss this more in the near future. In the meantime, be more considerate; when driving, drive slow and steady.

  1. Marty Trapp
    February 23, 2011 at 8:29 pm

    Gary: If you think it gets louder as you approach a 4-way stop intersection, you should try living on one. It’s louder all of the time. Thanks for the wealth of information you’ve posted here. I may have a new bookmark!

  2. September 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    In Portland, OR where we lived for a few years, many of the neighborhood intersections in the NE & SE areas of town are stop-sign free. Of course some (moronic) people just used that as an excuse to drive super fast through the neighborhood, never slowing at all (which baffles me because I liken it to playing Russian Roulette). However, in my non-scientific observations on walks & such, most people just went slowly & cautiously through the entire neighborhood and slowed @ intersections, yielding if necessary.
    I’m not suggesting that taking out stop signs is a solution for Traverse City, just an observation that NOT having stop signs can work.

  3. Greg
    September 26, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Move

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