Public Comment

Another Opinion on Stop Signs

Chris Gilbert
Sunday January 21, 2018 - 11:48:00 AM

The campaign to install more stop signs may be misguided, according to recent research and on-the-ground experience in Europe.  

“Imagine what would happen if you took down road signs and traffic signals. More accidents would surely result, or at least significant confusion and slower traffic. Or would it? The surprising thing is that a number of cities around the world have actually done this, and experienced dramatic declines in traffic accidents. “ 

“The idea is based on an urban design philosophy known as “shared space.” When drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists are forced to develop their own natural ways of interacting with each other, goes the thinking, they work out better social behaviors than the rule-driven behaviors dictated by professional traffic engineers. This does not mean an abandonment of design considerations, but rather a commitment to the larger public space designs instead of overly prescriptive traffic control devices such as traffic lights, signs and road markings.” 

“The Dutch town of Drachten adopted this “unsafe is safe” approach in 2007 and found that casualties at one junction dropped from thirty-six over the previous four years to only two in the two years following the removal of traffic lights. Traffic jams no longer occur in the town’s main junction, which handles 22,000 cars a day. The town is “Verkeersbordvrij,” meaning “free of traffic signs.” 

“The plans derive inspiration and motivation from a large-scale experiment in the town of Drachten in the Netherlands, which has 45,000 inhabitants. ... Cyclists dutifully raise their arm when they want to make a turn, and drivers communicate by hand signs, nods and waving. 

"More than half of our signs have already been scrapped," says traffic planner Koop Kerkstra. "Only two out of our original 18 traffic light crossings are left, and we've converted them to roundabouts." Now traffic is regulated by only two rules in Drachten: "Yield to the right" and "Get in someone's way and you'll be towed." 

“Strange as it may seem, the number of accidents has declined dramatically. Experts from Argentina and the United States have visited Drachten. Even London has expressed an interest in this new example of automobile anarchy. And the model is being tested in the British capital's Kensington neighborhood.” 


In particular, let’s take Milvia. This is supposed to be a bike-friendly street, yet there are too many stop signs for a cyclist; at Vine, Virginia, then further south around the baseball field. All at 4-way stops. No wonder cyclists ignore so many stop signs. It is easy for a car driver to use the brake and gas pedals to stop and go at stop signs, but for cyclists stopping, putting your foot on the ground then starting up again is a major effort.  

Further discussion: 

Accident-free zone: The German town which scrapped all traffic lights and road signs 

Distracting Miss Daisy: Why stop signs and speed limits endanger Americans