Stop sign removal in Berkeley: another view

Charles Siegel
Wednesday September 28, 2016 - 01:52:00 PM

Steve Finacom is much too alarmed about the draft Bike Plan’s proposal to remove stop signs. The response of transportation manager Farid Javandel makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s look at it again: 

“There seem to be many locations where stop signs have been installed not as devices to assign the right of way at intersections, but as a form of pseudo traffic calming with the intent of slowing traffic or discouraging cut-through traffic. While stop signs are cheap, their effectiveness in achieving these goals is often marginal, and they have a variety of unintended consequences. On Bicycle Boulevards in particular, stop signs create a situation where cyclists must inconveniently stop at many intersections where there is rarely conflicting traffic. … However, simply removing the stop signs may not address the traffic speed and volume concerns that are a shared interest of residents and users of Bicycle Boulevards. Thus, we need to determine what alternative measures can be implemented to allow these routes to efficiently serve bike riders, while managing traffic speed and avoiding cut through traffic. The alternative measures need to be determined on a case by case basis depending on the context and conditions at each location. While the process has not been spelled out in detail, it rationally begins with analysis of traffic and crash data to confirm whether a given stop sign is warranted in the first place. Based on that information we can determine whether removal of the stop sign is advisable and what alternative measures may be feasible. At that point we could engage the neighbors to share the results of the analysis and seek their input regarding any alternatives. That would form the basis for determination by the City Traffic Engineer of what change if any should occur in a given location.”  

The first point is definitely true. Transportation planners generally agree that stop signs are not as effective as other forms of traffic calming.  

The second point is also true. The draft bike plan does not just call for removing stop signs but for replacing them with other forms of traffic calming that are more effective, traffic circles and diverters. 

Finacom is being alarmist when he talks about stop signs being removed in his neighborhood, next to the Le Conte school on Russell. Rather than just being removed, the stop signs would be replaced with other, more effective forms of traffic calming that do more to protect the children at the Le Conte school. 

If he needs more reassurance, I myself would be glad to support an additional provision in the plan saying that the stop signs on a street will not be removed until after the city installs other traffic calming measures on that street to make it safer than it was when the stop signs were present. 

I understand why he worries that the stop signs might be removed without any substitute, but I don’t see any need for worry if the plan provides that the traffic calming must be installed before the stop signs are removed.