Santa Monica: New Stop Signs Coming to Eastern End of Broadway (Part 1 of 2)

Stop SignIn response to a high rate of intersection collisions on Broadway in the residential stretch with center medians east of 26th St , new stop signs are to be added so that there will be 2 additional 4 way stop regulated intersections.

Currently, 2 of the 6 intersections are 4 way stops require a stop for east and westbound travel. At one point stop signs at every intersection through that corridor to the city border was considered, however there was some push-back by some, including members of Santa Monica Spoke, against diminishing the efficiency of such an important route for bicycling. Notices will be going out to those who live along of the route if they have not already.

Bike riders have a complex and sometimes uncongenial relationship with our prolific use of stop signs as traffic control devices in the United States. Compliance with the exact letter of the laws governing stop signs among bike riders is in many places observably and quantitatively low. Not that drivers are any saints in regards to stop signs, I see people blow them often. However, there are characteristics to bicycling as a mode of transportation, such as differing relative risks of causing harm, official bike route designations, the physics of being your own motor and the route selection of various kinds of bike riders, that complicate the stop sign relationship in unique ways.

The laws can say one thing, but mixed interpretations and conventions that vary along quite a spectrum can create confusion and animosity. There are drivers who (typically giving a pass to their own traffic transgressions), go bonkers over bike riders rolling stops, especially when the cyclist is out of turn with established right of away protocols. This is one of the most common rants I hear lobbed against the bicycling public in many forums. However, there are drivers who are more than happy to give up their right of away to allow a bicyclist to roll through first. Some are obligingly carefree about it whether I go out of turn or not, but I also have gotten cold, clearly upset, stare downs from drivers who waited for me to roll through when I stayed foot down waiting to go after.

There are bike riders who are fairly laissez faire about stop sign compliance, but there those quite insistent on the letter of the law, sometimes with a self policing impulse to decry and disparage other bicyclists they attribute as giving us all a bad name. There are bicyclists who are willing to put up with faster more intense boulevards or routing out of their way to avoid heavy stop sign use on a street, especially if a long route makes many stops. The delays can really add up. But others may hate dealing with stop signs but aren’t about to reroute off calmer streets.

This column is supported by Bike Center.

I’ve also heard of at least one officer from one of the South Bay cities refer to using discretion by only stopping those rolling too fast to see the spokes of the wheel, an interpretation going more with the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Another officer, another city may treat it differently, more strictly, or perhaps be too concerned with more important things.

Many advocates around the nation point to Idaho, which long ago changed the legal obligation for bicyclists to one of yielding. Yielding sometimes require a full stop and sometimes does not. There was no apocalypse of problems that resulted. I have some fixed feelings on the Idaho law but it seems worthy of consideration.

Like I said, it gets complicated. I think it’s important we acknowledge this complexity, because reducing the issue to a simplistic binaries around stop signs (and on many other issues), can lead us astray from looking at root causes, or differing expectations among different riders and drivers.

So I would have to say I place myself in the camp of not being a fan of regulating residential streets through mass propagation of stop signs. However reducing crashes, especially those severe enough to cause serious harm, is a worthy goal which I share with those in city traffic engineering making this call.

Traffic calming or mitigation solutions which can calm vehicle speeds and help regulate intersection interactions, but don’t penalize bicycling as much as repeated stop signs do exist. Within the framework of our system traffic calming requires a more complex public process and are typically more costly. I understand why the stop signs are going in, but I also get why some bike riders and advocates are frustrated by the move.

In the 2nd post on this topic, I’ll elaborate on what long term alternatives to repeated stop signs (or rule changes to their use) for this corridor and other similar contexts in the city might look like.


  • Evan G.

    I welcome this news. I used to live on a street in the area that did not have a stop sign. Despite clearly marked crosswalks, I experienced numerous close calls trying to cross Broadway. When it was safe to cross the street, often when I reached the median there was then a car approaching me from the lane I still needed to cross that was not there when I started crossing the street, and they would not yield. This happened a few times when I was with my young daughter, one time a car then approached us in the lane that we just crossed, meaning that we were stranded in the middle of the street with traffic passing in front and behind us.

    SMPD really should to a pedestrian sting at some of these intersections, citing drivers (and yes, cyclists) that don’t yield to pedestrians crossing Broadway.

  • calwatch

    What I will do is slow to a speed that allows me to cross parallel with an adjacent vehicle, so that no one’s “turn” is being taken away. If there is no parallel vehicle then I will slow down to a speed such that I can take the next turn through the intersection. The worst thing are these wannabe Tour de France riders – of course in their road bike, spandex, and advertising jerseys – that take away a vehicle’s turn crossing the street. But if you are riding at a jogger’s pace (5-6 mph) then joggers can cross the street at will at stop controlled intersections since they are pedestrians, so bicyclists should too.

  • Brian

    Argh. I commute on Broadway every day, and one of the reasons I like it is that there are only the two stop signs on it. Stopping at those going east on a reasonably heavy steel bike with loaded panniers is a pain, I’m not looking forward to having to accelerate twice more on the way uphill there. Maybe I’ll start taking Colorado more often.

  • Anonymous

    Stop signs should only be used to assign right of way, not for traffic calming. They may lower the average speed of motor vehicles but do little to lower the maximum speed, as drivers will continue to just gun it from one stop to the next. A lower average speed does not help a pedestrian or bicyclist hit while a driver is barreling along at 10 mph over the limit.

    Beyond that, overuse of stop signs just trains bicyclists to start ignoring them, or to use busier arterial streets which tend to have much fewer traffic control devices specifically to benefit the efficiency of driving at the expense of all other modes. My bike ride to work takes me twice as long on bikeways full of stop signs than it does on a parallel arterial with no bike accommodation. Why should I have to choose between getting to work efficiently or safely?

    Traffic circles, narrower streets/lanes, raised and/or decorated crosswalks, speed tables or humps, speed feedback signs, lighted crosswalks, and so many more treatments are available for cities to use in calming speeds along an entire roadway, not just at the intersections.

  • Niall Huffman

    I think we can all agree that blowing through a stop sign-controlled intersection without regard to traffic conditions or right-of-way is a dumb and dangerous move. However, let’s cool it with the stereotyping of road/sport cyclists. I’ve seen many, many riders in regular clothes and with baskets and panniers attached to their bikes cut off cross traffic that legally had priority over them, and I’ve met plenty of road cyclists who insist on dropping a foot at every stop sign and waiting their turn.

    “Wannabe Tour de France riders” is a gratuitous insult that reflects a failure to understand that professional and amateur sport cyclists wear bike jerseys/shorts for the exact same reasons, which mainly relate to functionality. I wear spandex when I’m out for a 60-mile ride because it helps wick away sweat, it doesn’t flap in the breeze, and the chamois pad in the shorts keeps my butt from chafing — not because I have any particular admiration for pro cyclists or delusions about my abilities compared to theirs.

    I do think that contemporary team jerseys plastered with ads are ugly, and I personally have never bought or worn one. Some riders, though, actually race for local teams, and are contractually obligated as part of their sponsorship deals to wear them while training. Try to keep this in mind.

  • calwatch

    Maybe I don’t understand, because I’ve done 30-40 miles in a folding bike, in regular jeans and shirt, with no issues. (That’s a normal biking weekend for me. The “Tour de France” comment primarily relates to SPEED… Someone riding at 20-30 mph AND running through stop signs is an accident waiting to happen. If you are doing 15-20 mph between stop signs, but still drop your foot (and not drag it) for a complete stop, good for you.

  • Niall Huffman

    I generally drop my foot when cross traffic is present, to clarify who arrived first and thus who has right-of-way. Dropping your foot when nobody else is around is unnecessary and not required under the law; I typically trackstand or slow to a walking pace and proceed when I know it’s safe.

    I’ve done 30-40 miles in jeans, and it sucks. It would suck even more to do 50-80 miles in jeans, and to do it day after day, like many people typically do when touring. Maybe your butt crack and inner thighs are made of steel, but most people chafe from the seams rubbing against their skin after a couple of hours or so. Don’t judge other people’s choice of cycling attire.

  • john

    Thanks for this info, Gary.

  • Arran

    I’d love to see roundabouts instead. They are the best way to control traffic while not impeding bikes or peds. The stop and go is hard on your brakes and your mileage. So lets try roundabouts. It will take a while to get used to them, but they are the best traffic control.

    I’m looking forward to part 2, great article.

  • I experienced numerous close calls trying to cross Broadway. When it was
    safe to cross the street, often when I reached the median there was
    then a car approaching me from the lane I still needed to cross that was
    not there when I started crossing the street, and they would not yield.

  • Evan G.

    Exactly the same situation as I was describing. It’s a small street, but it can be very stressful even trying to cross that.

  • Evan G.

    I could be wrong, but I think that most everyone dislikes the roundabout on 26th between Wilshire and Montana. I think that it would be such an unpopular suggestion that people would rather have nothing as opposed to a roundabout.

  • I’m a fan of roundabouts, at least the small neighborhood variety that don’t deal with lane changes, but the unfortunate thing that works against their implementation is many drivers do hate them, and most electeds also look at things from a driving experience lens.

    Drivers will often “feel” it’s more dangerous using them, but that uncomfort is part of why they reduce severe types of crashes. People have to slow down and activate their brain. Also making left turns are one of the most common crash types, especially for drivers pushing past 70, and roundabouts make all turns into right turns.

    I’ll talk a little more about this in the second part to this.

  • Anonymous

    The “roundabout” on 26th is too small to function correctly even if people didn’t stop and look at it as if Martians had just touched down. The real problem with roundabouts is Americans, who view the idea of turning right twice without stopping at an intersection as a communist plot, but stopping completely as perfectly ok… after all, it’s only gas.

  • Anonymous

    I’d just like to point out that all of the calls for more traffic calming on Broadway is because of people driving their cars in an inconsiderate manner.

    If you want to fix problems like this, you do it by shaming the drivers. That is – after all – how they managed to get our entire society brainwashed into thinking that walking across the street is a crime but driving so fast in pedestrian districts that you can’t prevent killing an occasional rube is just progress.


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