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