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Posted by on May 30, 2010 in Safety | 11 comments

Contemptible Stop Signs

This is a map of something being called a “trail extension” between the Cady Way Trail and Colonial Drive.

Shows Trail Stop Signs

It was constructed last year with a completely clean slate. Property was condemned, the old street was torn up and rerouted, new drainage piping and curbing was installed as well as a new drainage pond.  Trees were planted in the median as well as between the street and the sidewalks. The old name of the street was changed.

What they did for “us” was construct a wide sidewalk along one side the street. The City’s Bicycle Plan shows plans for this trail extending across Colonial Drive and along the perimeter of the airport.

This trail extension is 1/3 of a mile long, yet a cyclist riding either north or south, would be required to stop five times in that 1/3 mile as evidenced by miniature stop signs at every minor street except Hargrave Street.

Entrance to Futon Planet parking lot

There are even miniature stop signs where the traffic entering a parking lot crosses the trail, so someone wanting to buy a futon gets the right of way.

Yet, if a cyclist used the street (which now has choke points) she wouldn’t have to stop even once.

This is how the City plans to make their sidepaths safe. What they will do is use lots and lots of these miniature stop signs at every conceivable conflict point. This relieves them of liability and transfers all risk to the cyclist. They must know that cyclists will hold these stops signs in contempt, but that matters not. On the police report, it will say “failure to obey a traffic control device.”

The City has plans for many more sidepaths like this one. The City apparently knows that these sidepaths are inherently more dangerous than riding in the street, else the onus would be where it belongs, on the driver that is entering or leaving the minor street and there would no no need for miniature stop signs.

Use of these miniature stop signs also makes a clear statement where cyclists fit into the traffic scheme: Off to the side,  stopping every 150 feet and legally required to yield to all “real” traffic.

11 Comments

  1. If those miniature stop signs are anything like their North Texas equivalents, they’ll all disappear within a month or two, and the city will never bother to replace them. After that, you can write up the same kind of “bad path post” that I’ve put together but haven’t published yet. Look at the bright side – at least they didn’t feel compelled to make the path artistically wave back and forth.

  2. Should the frequency of the stop signs and mandatory use laws in other states/cities leave any doubt about the inferior status of bicyclists, I find even the smaller size of the stop signs reinforces the message.

    The Schuylkill River Trail in Philadelphia also has small stop signs at virtually intersection. The stop signs are smaller than regular ones, so when they are off to the side a number of cyclists I have ridden with did not even see them because they were too small and strangely placed.

    I did see the 2009 MUTCD – bicycle and pedestrian signs can be 18″ vs. 30″ for automotive signs. I assume if the signs have only 36% (.6x.6) of the area of normal signs, this lets towns avoid wasting money on signs for bicyclists and pedestrians. Then they are shocked when signs that are hard to see are ignored.

  3. At least it’s not a “bike lane” which may become mandatory, although I am hoping not. I rarely see a “cyclist” obeying stop signs on any trails on which I’ve ridden. Because of my recent miles commuting over the last four years, I’ve been conditioned to stop even at those signs on trails, which leads to the other riders leaving me in the dust or providing for some fartlek training to catch up.

    Regarding the “failure to obey a traffic control device”, I think a good lawyer or simply a good argument is that they do not meet FDOT specifications, or is there a specification I’m missing?

    Except for the country in which these side-paths are located and the culture and conditioning of the drivers in the USA, this side-path appears similar to those “overseas”. The big difference is drivers appear to be willing to take responsibility for operating a massive object with the ability to injure or kill, while USA drivers are unwilling to recognize it.

    • Just north of the section Eric is referring to, there is a bike lane. Here’s what it looks like. I use the sidepath there.

      I don’t enjoy the pinch points on the southern part, but I do find it easier to control the lane there than in the part where I have to ignore the door zone bike lane while impeding traffic.

      Traffic can be aggressive on that part of Lake Baldwin Ln. That whole road design sucks for bicyclists. It is disrespectfully designed for the lowest common denominator of rolling pedestrian at the expense of all others.

    • “they do not meet FDOT specifications, or is there a specification I’m missing?”

      They do meet them. Florida, like many other states, adopts the MUTCD and that says 18×18″ is the correct size for bicycle facilities vs. 30×30.”

  4. Someone actually takes action to remind cyclists to pay attention at these intersections rather than riding through blindly, and you’re complaining about that? I don’t get it. Are you saying there should be no signs, or just that they shouldn’t be stop signs specifically?

  5. So, is this what I should expect when I visit Tampa again in June?

  6. From what I’ve seen on maps, that section is part of Lake Baldwin Trail, that goes part way around Lake Susanah and then around Lake Baldwin itself. I live between Lake Susanah and Lake Baldwin and take this to get to Cady Way to work everyday. Although I don’t usually come to a complete stop, I instead slow down and stand on my pedals when I approach these small stop signs. They have helped prevent me colliding with cars a few times coming out of the parking lots and side streets.

    The first time I saw them, I was driving my car and I did get confused and thought they were for car drivers. I wasn’t used to seeing stop signs on a sidewalk, which I didn’t realize at the time was also a bike path. There smaller size did tip me off that they probably weren’t for car drivers.

  7. Based upon Brr and Carlos responses, I think there is a fundamental disconnect as to what traffic and traffic laws are all about.

    Contrary to popular opinion, bicycles in the street are not at the bottom of the food chain, just as a Mini doesn’t have fewer rights to use the road than an F-350 or concrete truck. When any vehicle (not just motor vehicle) is confronted with a stop sign, they are required to come to a complete stop. F.S. 316.123

    Municipalities are allowed to put traffic control devices on any street, path, lane, limited access street or anywhere else they deem necessary. F.S. 316.006

    A stop sign is a regulatory sign, not a warning sign because it has the force of law behind it. F.S. 316.123 see “Section 1A.13 Definitions of Words and Phrases in This Manual” MUTCD

    To be effective, a traffic control device should meet five basic requirements:

    1. Fulfill a need;
    2. Command attention;
    3. Convey a clear, simple meaning;
    4. Command respect from road users; and
    5. Give adequate time for proper response.

    MUTCD: Section 1A.02 Principles of Traffic Control Devices

    I hope that the point that a stop sign is a traffic control device backed by law has been proven, thus far.

    Now we move on . . .

    Philosophy of Traffic Control

    Effective traffic control is achieved by exercising the least intrusive control to achieve safe traffic flow. When excessive control or unnecessary control is used, motorists feel imposed upon and frequently will ignore the traffic control device. This can lead to severe consequences involving collisions and possibly personal injury.

    – From a page called “Stop Sign Study” where the City of Richfield, MN attempts to explain why stop signs won’t be put up willy-nilly all over town.
    http://www.cityofrichfield.org/PublicWorks/stopsignstudy.htm

    If you google “overuse of stop signs” you will find many pages written by traffic engineers that explain that the overuse of stop signs is a bad idea although politically popular.

    The question then becomes one of necessity in two ways.

    Since each of the minor streets already have stop signs (which I omitted from the map in the interest of maintaining focus) and those stop signs are there to control exiting traffic, all the stop signs become “all-way”, but only for bicycle and the minor street, intersection. Can you imagine the hue and cry if an all-way stop sign was placed at each of these intersections for all the traffic?

    If you are confused by that last statement, I don’t doubt it. To say that this is a confusing intersection for motorists and cyclists would be an understatement.

    Second, if this is the only way to make this part of the trail safe, then the necessity of the trail should be called into question since the stop signs are doing more harm (by increasing contempt and confusing people) than they are doing good.

  8. If the path was a regular sidewalk, cyclists on it would not be seeing stop signs. The cross-street traffic has to stop anyway. Drivers turning across the path are required to yield anyway. So the stop signs are entirely superfluous. Florida’s own path/roadway intersection guide says designers should either stop the path or the roadway, not both.

    Cyclists on the parallel roadway don’t have to stop and don’t have to worry about extra conflicts from turning motorists … unless of course you’re a “novice” cyclist. Then the sidepath magically protects you from those conflicts.