“Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs.  Blocking up the scenery, breaking my mind.  Do this, don’t do that.  Can’t you read the signs?”

                                                – Five Man Electrical Band

I only dabble in cycling advocacy issues, but I have an issue want to share with you.  It involves stop signs on multi-use pathways.  I run into these up and down a 12-mile stretch of Rte 234 and they make little sense to me.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care very much, but I’ve been reading of cases in DC where police have been ticketing cyclists for violating these signs.  I don’t want a ticket.

So lets take a look at a typical stop sign, shall we?  Above, we see a stop sign in front of a crosswalk with no light at the intersection.  Crosswalks are designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists from the onslaught of vehicular traffic.  Stop signs are designed to let traffic move more easily on two different roads.  To me, this is a classic contradiction:  people entering crosswalks have the right of way, yet people encountering stop signs have no right of way (initially) and are required to stop.  Why stop if you have the right of way?  Definitely a mixed message there.

Second Issue:  You will note that there is not a corresponding stop sign for pedestrian/cycling traffic heading in the opposite direction.  The second stop sign is oriented toward vehicular traffic to get them to stop before entering Rte 234.  Why must traffic heading in one direction stop before entering the crosswalk while traffic moving the other way moves without restriction?

Third Issue: Does ALL traffic on the path need to come to a complete stop?  Do joggers need to stop running?  Walkers?  Do we really expect a jogger to come to a complete stop before entering a crosswalk on a road as unoccupied as this one?  The sign should apply to all traffic but I can’t believe they want everyone to do as the sign directs.  If you don’t want everyone to follow the sign’s direction, then don’t put up the sign.

Fourth Issue:  See the wide white line to the left of the crosswalk?  For those not familiar with U.S. street markings, that’s a stop line.  It’s purpose is to get cars to stop BEFORE entering a crosswalk.  Oops.

So here’s my concern: one fine sunny day I’ll be zipping along this path, come to an incomprehensible crosswalk such as this, check the traffic to make sure I can safely cross, then enter the crosswalk without coming to a complete stop.  This will be observed by the wrong sort of police officer and I will find myself ticketed for my trouble.  Should that day ever come, I suspect the cycling advocates will have my full attention and support.


8 thoughts on “Signs

  1. You know the 3-foot law may have gone before a full committee today, after failing yesterday? My issue with bicycle legislation is who cares? Motorists haven’t a clue that Virginia has a 2 foot law. How is a 3-foot clearance law going to help us, if we don’t focus on awareness? Motorists might not be so aggressive toward cyclists if they realized we are abiding the state code when doing the things they think are annoying.
    Few motorists realize that they are breaking state code (the law?) by “buzzing” cyclists.
    Thanks for your post. Someone needs to think things through before spending tax dollars on ambiguous or redundant…… or both “safety” measures.

  2. You have to remember that cycle paths on or near roads are designed by motorists and are not for cyclists. They are there to get cyclists out of the way of motorists. In Britain, the motoring bureaucrats (the government) contemplated passing a traffic law which would compel cyclists to use cycle paths if they were provided. They were taken by the hand and shown some typical city cycle routes and admitted defeat. Go and cycle in Holland, they love cyclists.

    • What better way to buy your legal prostitute and hash than by traveling on a well-developed cycling infrastructure? 🙂

      I can tolerate some silliness in the local signage as long as I am not held to the letter of the law, which (unfortunately) is what I understand to be occuring about 40 miles to my north.

    • When I used to visit Cambridge in the late 90s, I remember there being a great fued between the cyclists and motorists. By all accounts, things have not improved. Here’s hoping you find a safe place to ride and thanks for stopping by!

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