Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stop Signs as Traffic Calming

Tonight, City Traffic Engineer Clint Schuckel suggested to the Public Facilities committee that they Google stop signs and traffic calming to see the policy reasons against stop signs as traffic calming.

Here's what such a search returns:

  • Northampton, Mass.
    Research has shown that unwarranted STOP signs and STOP signs that have been used for speed control, do not have the effect desired. Speeds between the STOP signs increase as drivers try to make up for lost time. Drivers tend to roll through the unwarranted STOP signs with higher frequency (over 50%).
  • Kirkland, Washington (scroll down to the bottom)
    All-way or 4-way stop signs are usually not an appropriate traffic calming tool on neighborhood streets. Citizens frequently request all-way stop signs at a neighborhood intersection to slow cars down and make the intersection safer. However, all-way stops that are placed in inappropriate locations do little to to slow traffic and can actually make the intersection less safe.
  • Portland, Oregon
    Stop signs may often seem like a good solution to neighborhood speeding, but traffic studies and experience show that using stop signs to control speeding doesn't necessarily work.
  • Victoria, British Columbia
    Stop signs should not be used as Traffic Calming devices.
  • Anacortes, Washington
    Overuse of stop signs may actually reverse the benefits. Studies have shown that motorists may ignore stop signs or increase speed between controlled areas if the stop signs are poorly placed.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia
    The City installs STOP signs to indicate right-of-way. Installing STOP signs for speed control goes directly against federal guidelines. The guidelines are based on previous engineering practices and studies, and have determined that STOP signs can actually exacerbate problems after extended use. First, people tend to speed in between STOP signs, to "make up" for their perceived lost time. Second, when drivers must constantly stop for traffic, but do not see good reason to, they will develop contempt for STOP signs.


Lee said...

I visit Virginia Beach often enough, and as a driver I find the stop signs extremely annoying. And while I've never thought about it before, Everyone (including myself) speeds to make up for the difference. I'm not saying that this is appropriate behavior, but it's sort of strangely instinctive, especially when there is no traffic.

ronmclinden said...

has anybody tried an "all-way yield" for relatively low-volume intersections? "yield to peds, cyclists, and all other traffic." consider how that might encourage civility.

John said...

An all-way yield? I think that would be somewhat confusing. You might as well have a two-way yield, since all drivers are required to yield to pedestrians anyway. There are all-way yields at roundabouts though.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem seems to be drivers not obeying the law. Police could make some money at all these points.

Peter said...

don't like this post.

basically, what we're being told is the A (stop signs) do not yield B (traffic calming/safety), when varying degrees of conditions C, D, E, F, and/or G are applied: therefore, A should never be used.

it's like saying don't roast marshmallows over an open fire because a lighter as a gas station could blow everyone to Portland (biker heaven).

what's the end result of the hate stop-signs campaign?

to convince people that stop signs are to be avoided because they either don't work, or they get more people injured and killed. in fact, it appears the opposite is most often true -- stop signs do work most of the time.

all those headlines and studies seem like something the Heritage Foundation or Cato or AEI would put out -- non-denial denials of half-truths. go ahead and knock down those straw men -- show them who's boss.

Corey Burger said...

Victoria Transport Policy Institute != municipal government. Those would be the 12 municipal governments of Greater Victoria (Victoria, Oak Bay, Saanich, Central Saanich, North Saanich, Sidney, Esquimalt, View Royal, Highlands, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin) plus the regional government (the Capital Regional District). Yes, we have a lot. Would you like one or two?

That being said, the VTPI, which is really just Tod Litman, is very well respected for his work.

Sean Roche said...


Talk about your strawmen?!?!? Who's arguing that all stop signs should be eliminated?

I very specifically wrote about the use of stop signs for traffic calming, not stop signs in general. In fact, part of the problem with using stop signs for traffic calming is that they lead to greater and greater non-compliance with stop signs where stop signs are necessary and beneficial.

Anonymous said...

Sean's entry stems from a neighborhood disagreement. Sean and some others are trying to keep traffic from their street since 2004 by having a bumpout installed at an intersection on one end of the block. The data shows it didn't keep traffic from their street. Then Sean's focus became the intersection and they were "just" making the intersection safer. The bumpout creates a hazard and was disliked by 90% of the community. The public facilities meeting was where the rest of the neighborhood got to finally tell the aldermen the problems with the bumpout. It must have made sense, the aldermen have so far suspended any contruction. 90% of the people think stop signs would work better. Sean still thinks the bumpout is the best way to go. This is Sean's way of trying to drum it into people's heads that stop signs shouldn't be used. Peter as well as others could see through this easily.

Sean Roche said...

While I am deeply flattered by Anonymous's interest in my interior condition, I am not sure how it's relevant.

The bumpout slows traffic through a dangerous intersection. There is widespread concern about the use of stop signs, which have been offered as an alternative. Both of these facts are independent of my intentions.

Feel free to continue to analyze my mental condition, but I would also be interested in your comments on the issues raised about stop signs on the pages linked to.

Anonymous said...

This paper reviewed over 70 technical papers covering all-way stops (or multi-way stops) and their success and failure as traffic control devices in residential areas. This study is the most comprehensive found on multi-way stop signs

The study looked at how multi-way stop signs have been used as traffic calming measures to control speed. There have been 23 hypotheses studied using multi-way stop as speed control. The research found an additional 9 hypotheses studied showing the effect multi way stops have on other traffic engineering problems.

The research found that, overwhelmingly, multi-way stop signs do NOT control speed except under very limited conditions. The research shows that the concerns about unwarranted stop signs are well founded.