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Posted by on Mar 23, 2010 in Safety | 25 comments

Stop signs suck…

…fuel and time.

They also increase emissions, wear and tear, noise and, of course, frustration. We all know how cyclists feel about them. In recent years they’ve infested our neighborhoods as they’re increasingly used to compensate for bad motorist behavior.

Gary Lauder has another idea. What do you think?

Here’s an interview with Lauder on CNN, too.

25 Comments

  1. I’m afraid that (to borrow a phrase from you) the “hyper-individualism, selfishness and disrespect that plagues our communities and our traffic culture” would result in the take turns sign being interpreted as: everybody else yield! (and bicycles yield most of all!)

    I’m continually astounded at how few road users understand and apply basic right-of-way principles.

    I love the idea, don’t get me wrong, but as a “hardware” solution, I worry about how it will run with our existing “software.”

    • Well said!

      Flawed software doesn’t run well on any hardware. Our current traffic culture definitely has flawed software.

      :-)

  2. I am a stalwart proponent of traffic circles. Contrary to the view of “JAT in Seattle”, my experience has been that, where they are installed, all users adapt to their presence and cooperate. In particular is that which exists in Waco (TX) at the intersection of La Salle, Circle, Valley Mills and Robinson. This is a relatively high volume intersection, which I frequented almost daily and most of the time on a bicycle with no difficulty or conflict during my years at university. http://bit.ly/9B85t1

    While I appreciate the point Lauder was making, I think the sign proposed at the intersection used as an example (3-way stop) wouldn’t work. Someone needs RoW or chaos will result.

    I think he also misses another potential point of the 3-way stop: traffic calming. If motorists have to stop , then overall speeds on the primary roadway will be reduced. However, the same will result from the use of a roundabout.

    • I really like traffic circles. Canin Assoc. did a nice streetscape treatment with them in downtown Windermere, getting rid of numerous obnoxious stop signs.

      I don’t see the take turns sign being effective, either.

  3. I liked it all but the part where he starts equating time with money.

    A cyclist can cause a small delay of a motorist. Start adding up all the time that is caused by cyclist delay and ……. well, then that’s an arguement I don’t want to get clubbed with.

    • Elsewhere (maybe it was a John Forester blurb?) the delay of motorist thing has been shown to be zero – they always eventually get around you and catch up to the car they were stuck behind earlier. You could go so far as to say that even when you add it all up – the actual delay still adds up to zero.

      This would be a tricky point to make in a heated roadside argument, I suppose.

      As for roundabouts / traffic circles they take up a lot of space; we’re starting to see them in some of our distant suburbs (farm towns now engulfed by sprawl) I think we don’t know how to comport ourselves – who has right of way / what are our signal obligations? Having said that in my three years cycling in Sydney I never got any giff from motorists from taking the lane in a roundabout.

      • I meant Guff…

      • Sorry…should read “fewer cars” not “less”.

      • Thanks for that link!

  4. I think the city of Clearwater, FL would take issue with the statement that traffic circles reduce the number of accidents.

    • The Clearwater Beach roundabout did initially have crashes, not because it was a roundabout, but because it had some design flaws. When those flaws were corrected the crashes dropped precipitously. The safety record of roundabouts generally is not up for debate; the data is clear — they reduce both the number and severity of crashes.

    • yes but the traffic circles cost more.

      • Roundabouts cost more to build initially, but save money in the long term. No signals to power or maintain. Less pavement to maintain.

        They reduce delay better than signals do, so they save time and money for road users, too.

        And since they’re so much safer, they save us all the emergency and medical costs.

  5. Great talk, Thanks!

  6. I like roundabouts as well. There are two big ones in Fort Worth and they’re both messed up; each of them have yield signs for traffic already on the circle, giving the right of way to entering traffic. That just makes me cringe. But done right, they are great. I would love it if the major intersection closest to my home was converted to a roundabout. No matter how you try to time it, you always seem to get stuck for the whole cycle of the light, which is just st00pid during off hours when traffic is light.

    As for the Take Turns signs, those are equivalent to yield signs. If people can’t negotiate an intersection with all yields, they wouldn’t be able to handle these.

  7. Interesting the topic of stop signs came up. My wife and I were walking across at a 4 way stop sign the other day. We were almost hit when the next car to stop decided he didn’t have to and just followed the car in front of him through. In disgust I attempted to hit the back of his car with my umbrella and unfortunately missed, but did get a flick of my finger up. The driver really had no idea how fast we were crossing the street and if we decided to swiftly cross, we would have surely been hit.

    I think I first encountered roundabouts while driving through Tuscany a couple of years ago. I was somewhat blindly driving into them and just assuming
    the other traffic would wait for me, as I did them. It seemed to work out well, even though I didn’t know the actual rules.

    I didn’t realize until a year later that parts of Colonial Town have roundabouts as well. And there’s also one here in Baldwin Park.

    I really don’t have an opinion on them or which is safer. Maybe my point is, after encountered a stop sign runner the other day, that it is really the careless driver one must be aware of or in my case, someone who wasn’t sure exactly how it all works.

    BTW, a local TEDx has started in Orlando for anyone interested http://orlandotedx.org/

    • ohhhh, a TED event here in Orlando! thanks for the head’s up.

    • Carlos, that’s very exciting news! Thank you!

  8. A better idea might be to just get rid of stop signs and replace them with nothing in certain circumstances, i.e. make people figure it out. Combined with lower speed limits, we might create a situation in which a new culture might emerge.

    • Removing Stop signs would simply give people unfamiliar with the area the idea that they have the right of way. I think it would be disastrous.

  9. I didn’t watch the video, but my only concern would be that many people don’t remember what the rule is about who has the right of way when people arrive at the same time. I know I had completely forgotten that one until I re-learned it as a result of bicycling discussions like this one. (And even now, I have trouble remembering it. It’s the person on your right, correct?) Of course that’s a problem with stop signs too, but at least stops signs are telling people to stop, which if followed provides a bit more reaction time. But maybe it’s not significant enough to matter.