This Stop Sign Doesn’t Work


Last week, GM wrote about what happens when people ignore street signs. This week he’s back with another street sign on a cobblestone street that people routinely ignore: the stop sign at O St. and Potomac.

The sign, seen above, is for eastbound traffic on O. And if you stand there for a few minutes you’ll notice that not even half the drivers even bother to slow down for the sign. They don’t even see it.

And there’s a reason for that: because the street is cobblestone (well, technically Belgian block) there’s no paint on the street. There’s nothing on the road surface itself to inform drivers that there’s a stop sign. There’s no painted crosswalk and there’s not even a simply painted white line.

And the fact that there’s no intersecting traffic here (O St. is one-way eastbound and Potomac is one-way southbound) only reinforces the impression that (absent the stop sign) there’s no need to stop.

And maybe there really isn’t a need to stop here. There’s no need to regulate merging traffic. The only reason would be to allow a crosswalk. But without a clearly delineated crosswalk, pedestrians are better off crossing as if there weren’t one (which is legal midblock like this). In other words, only cross once you make eye contact with the driver and see that he or she sees you.

It’s unfortunate that we can’t expect drivers to actually follow the laws. But this is one instance where it’s not clear that having a stop sign is even the optimal situation. We either should get rid of it, or install some higher visibility signage that can get through to scofflaw drivers.



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2 responses to “This Stop Sign Doesn’t Work

  1. The four-way stop on P Street at 27th is also a troublesome spot. Cars coming in from West End routinely blow right through it with barely a brake-tap. Trying to drive through that intersection on 27th requires serious caution. It’s probably because it’s hard to spot cars on 27th since the view is obstructed by tight spacing of the buildings — but it’s an accident waiting to happen.

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