New: Act Now to Make It Easier to Install Stop Signs

Charles Siegel
Monday January 15, 2018 - 04:20:00 PM

On Thursday, January 18, Berkeley’s Transportation Commission will consider forming a committee to develop criteria that let us install stop signs in more locations. This could make the city much safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, but we need strong community support to make it happen. For information about what you can do, see the Action section below. 


In 2017, two middle-school students were hospitalized after being hit by cars when they were bicycling across Dwight Way on Californian St. Installing four-way stop signs is a simple and inexpensive way to make this intersection safe, but city transportation staff said we could not do this because the intersection does not meet state criteria for four-way stop signs. 

To let us make this intersection and other dangerous intersections safer, the City Council directed the Transportation Commission to develop criteria to supplement the state criteria, allowing us to install stop signs to protect pedestrians and bicycle safety. 

Berkeley clearly needs different criteria for stop signs than the state criteria. 

Berkeley has a far higher proportion of pedestrian and bicycle trips than other California cities, and we also have a higher proportion of crashes: A study comparing 44 California cities of similar size found that Berkeley was number one in both pedestrian and bicycle injuries and deaths. 

Stop Signs are far more cost-effective than other traffic controls. 

Berkeley has been installing Rectangular Rapidly Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) to make pedestrian crossings safer, but they cost about $50,000 each, compared with only about $1,000 each for stop signs. Stop signs are not appropriate in many locations, where they would interrupt traffic flow, but in locations where they are appropriate, they are far more cost-effective than RRFBs. 

Berkeley also has a network of Bike Boulevards throughout the city (including California St.) but it is unsafe for bicyclists to cross major streets. For safe bike crossings, the alternative to stop signs are HAWK beacons, which cost about $200,000. Again, stop signs are not appropriate in many locations, but in places where they are appropriate (such as Dwight and California), they are far, far more cost effective. 

There is only one obstacle to adopting expanded criteria for stop signs: staff says that it does not have spare capacity to support the effort, so we would have to reprioritize staff resources to get this done anytime in the foreseeable future. 

I think we should give a high priority to cost effectiveness. The city council has already voted to prioritize funding in the 2018 budget for either stop signs or a HAWK beacon at Dwight and Telegraph. If we revise the criteria soon, we can install a stop sign at a cost of $1,000 rather than installing a HAWK Beacon for $200,000 - or (more likely) doing nothing because we cannot afford the HAWK beacon. 

I think we should give a high priority to safety. In 2017, two children were hospitalized after being hit at this one intersection alone. We should give the highest priority preventing this sort of crash, which can cause severe injury or death. 

The Transportation Commission will give this issue the high priority it deserves if it hears from the public. 


Please email the commission at transportation@cityofberkeley.info and tell them that you support creation of a Stop Sign Warrant Subcommittee to create expanded criteria for stop signs that will let us protect pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

Please come and speak to the commission. This item will be on the agenda when the commission meets on Thursday, January 18 at the North Berkeley Senior Center. 

The issue is on the draft agenda, but before you come to the meeting, you should confirm that it is on the final agenda by looking at https://www.cityofberkeley.info/Clerk/Commissions/Commissions__Transportation_Commission_Homepage.aspx 

With your help, we can make Berkeley safer in a way that does not bust the city budget.