Putting a Stop to Stop Signs

By Ben Bull
Published June 10, 2010

Here at RTH, we're often accused of demonizing motorists. The irony is that many of us are motorists - so why would we demonize ourselves?

Here's a 'pro-motorist' idea that's doing the rounds, and it's surely worth a look:

Uxbridge wants to put the brakes on stop signs.

They're bad for the environment and they don't work, say proponents of the idea to reduce stop signs in the town of 11,000 an hour northeast of Toronto.

I've often felt that stop signs were a rude and kludgy way to reduce speed. Remember all that street furniture they implemented in Europe? And the 'thin streets' they use in Portland? Safer-by-design is a better way to go.

My own experience of stop signs is unnerving. I tell my kids to make eye contact with the driver before they cross - to be sure the driver is not rolling through. But it's very hard to see through a windshield, and confusion is common.

As for driving, well, as the article points out, many stop signs are unnecessary. For myself, I slow down, look both ways, and roll on through.

One of the Uxbridge residents interviewed proposes more enforcement:

"Eliminating stop signs isn't going to do any good. They need a cop sitting there," says [Bud] Doucette, a 60-year, accident-free driver who had a close call in his electric wheelchair when a motorist failed to stop.

Hmm, more enforcement... Sound familiar? It kind of reminds me of all those ticket-happy commentators who would have cyclists taking tests and jaywalkers doing time.

Enforcing stupid rules doesn't make them any less stupid, and it won't modify people's behaviour. You have to fix the problem not compound it.

There's an environmental aspect too. Less stopping and starting means less pollution (yet another reason to get Hamilton's trucks off residential streets).

We'll keep you posted on this one.

Ben Bull lives in downtown Toronto. He's been working on a book of short stories for about 10 years now and hopes to be finished tomorrow. He also has a movie blog.


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By trevorlikesbikes (registered) - website | Posted June 10, 2010 at 14:13:49

Hey Ben,

I'd add this to your reading.


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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 10, 2010 at 14:18:04

Ooh, link dump! Here's mine. :)

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2010 at 10:14:58

I actually think the stop sign mania has had a bad effect on some drivers. Try crossing King Street at Haddon or similar high-speed roads with crosswalks - many drivers do not seem to think they should stop or slow down for pedestrians at crosswalks... they simply shift lanes to dodge around. That's because most pedestrian crossings where a driver will frequently see pedestrians are already covered by a stop sign or a traffic light. Stopping for a naked crosswalk seems unheard-of.

If naked crosswalks were more common, perhaps it could be ground into driver's heads that if you see a pedestrian attempting to cross at an uncontrolled crosswalk, you should stop and let them cross.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2010 at 11:10:17

Both King & Haddon and King & Cline are awful for pedestrians. The problem with the latter seems to be the gentle curve that allows people to swoop from King onto Cline without slowing down much - without signalling either, many times.

If I were King of Town, I would be putting the treed median back on King West between Cline and Forsyth.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted June 11, 2010 at 23:04:19

This is an interesting post, Ben. When I was googling around to write about Deaf Child signs and came across the Jacksonville, Florida website take on it (which is not to post them), I also noticed their take on stop-signs-by-request:

Many people believe that installing stop signs on all approaches to an intersection will result in fewer accidents. This is not always the case. Although the accident severity may be lessened, drivers are penalized by the additional delay and higher vehicle operating costs (fuel, brakes, etc.). There is no real evidence to indicate that stop signs decrease the speed of traffic. Impatient drivers view the additional delay caused by unwarranted stop signs as "lost time" to be made up by driving at higher speeds between stop signs. Unwarranted stop signs breed disrespect by motorists who tend to ignore them or slow down without stopping. This can sometimes lead to tragic consequences...Stop signs should not be viewed as a cure-all for solving all safety problems but, when properly located, can be useful traffic control devices to enhance safety for all roadway users.

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By adam2 (anonymous) | Posted June 13, 2010 at 23:29:12

What about speed bumps?

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 14, 2010 at 08:29:36

I think speed bumps do the same thing as a stop sign, you race up to it, slam the brakes, roll over it fast as your shocks allow then roar off to the next bump. What about good old fashioned narrow lanes and parked cars and street trees?

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By everywhere (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 19:01:47

Ok, there are either lack of stop signs for 4 way (Charlton/Walnut)...this is Bratina's jurisdiction
..funny east of this where school is less pedestrian traffic
yet 4 way stop signs...I will post pics later and vids on this
when I can.
On the whole....there are simply FAR TOO MANY cars/traffic as
we must stop to think the cause of much of road problems
pot holes, cracks, speed bumps(created by traffic) and poor road
repairs and many skipped(?)...
I believe "round abouts" work but we need MORE BIKE LANES smoothed and cleared frequently for safety all yr round...
All in all I must say the roads are getting worse & worse & worse &....
takes lot longer to commute avoiding potholes, bumps, cracks as well as traffic awareness.
Why are so many intersections mostly for traffic over pedestrians/cyclists then light changes in few seconds???
Or no lights just try cross intersection but there's always a car left or right...

they definately need a bridge/overpass for cyclists I waited over 5 minutes few times to cross(??!!)...traffic exiting to York Blvd in several examples.........

And where or when the HECK did this garbage drivers rule over all????

B.S.! BIG TIME!...

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 01:50:08

I spent a little time in Germany about 15 years ago. They have very few stop signs and almost no four way stops. Most quiet intersections are unmarked and are treated as a four way yield, very similar to four way stops. They take their driving a lot more seriously than we do. Not quite sure how that would work here since many drivers either do not know how a four way stop works or choose to not follow the rules.

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