The 4-way stop sign brings out the best in people. It certainly does around here. Not that we aren’t otherwise, but we are remarkably civil at 4-way stops. There are rules. Everyone knows and follows them. (You have to learn them in order to pass your drivers test.) If for some reason you forget your place in the scheme, it’s not long before you are reminded by another driver to take your turn. Indeed, I’ve been staring across the road waving the other guy on just as he is me. “No, no. You go! I’m sure you were here first.” And no one behind either of us seems to mind.
Here are some photos of a 4-way stop at the intersection of a US highway and a main thoroughfare through town.
These were taken over about one full minute, although obviously I didn’t capture every vehicle. I also didn’t count the number which stopped, looked, possibly waited and then moved forward. But you can see that this intersection gets a fair amount of traffic. Also note that right turning traffic has a dedicated lane, with a (not pictured) “yield” sign.
There are 16 signs associated with this intersection, four sets of four:
- stop ahead
- STOP (2 each)
There are 4-way stops everywhere. (There are only three green-yellow-red lights in the county.) There are 4-way stops in the Big City, too. Really, they are everywhere. I’ve yet to see a wreck, or shouting match. Not much in the way of horn-honking. (Once in a while in the city but I figure it’s coming from someone who’s not from around here). No shootings either, although we are a well-armed bunch.
It’s all very civilized.
Contrast the 4-way stop with the roundabout. Roundabout. Back in the olden times, if we were late walking home from school it was because we went the roundabout way. If our parents wanted to get off the — quicker– interstate, they’d drive home the– slower– roundabout way. Even the name itself if dumb. Why would anyone want to go the roundabout way through an intersection?
This is a roundabout in a certain small city in Arkansas* which probably gets the same volume of traffic as the 4-way stop above.
I do appreciate that if you are familiar with roundabouts, you will know the rules. But not everyone is familiar with them, and my experience in this particular roundabout indicates that even people who know the rules don’t always follow them. (You know who you are. *I* had the right of way. *I* was in the roundabout. You were entering. Jerk.)
There are 26 signs associated with this roundabout, four sets of four:
- roundabout ahead
- a sign that look vaguely like recycling signs, but with more arrows and street names
- pedestrian crossing (at two)
- which way to drive around the median
- YIELD (2)
- one way –>
Note that there are only two pedestrian crossing signs. The entry point pictured here is from the side street. You can cross this street, and its mirror reflection. You cannot cross the main street. I mean, you can, and I did, but there are no marked crossings. (There is one pedestrian bridge and I have the same feelings about it I have about the bridge crossing the Mighty Mississippi on Hwy 49. Once was enough.) There are no marked crosswalks at the 4-way stop pictured. But I’ve seen people cross. Just stand there and you’ll be waved across by the drivers. No big deal. The way this roundabout is laid out, it’s fairly easy to cross part of the main street– where traffic turning right is on a dedicated lane. But crossing where traffic is moving out of the roundabout is next to impossible because there two lanes, and a lane that’s turning right.
People are impolite in roundabouts, and not just this one. They honk. They flip others off. And there are wrecks. Roundabouts just do not engender polite behavior.
How much does signage cost? I have no idea. I looked around a bit and couldn’t come up with anything other than that signs are not free.Who is paid for those 10 extra signs?
Here’s another thing that makes these idiotic. Someone devised common sense rules that work well at a 4-way stop– an intersection not regulated by a traffic light. Wait for your turn. Everyone is first in line at some point. Seems fair to me. In a roundabout, if you are going straight on the main street, the hell with you suckers on the side street. Why is this? Why? What is it about you and your presence on a road that carries more traffic than the road I’m on that entitles you to keep moving while I have to wait for you?
See– it’s no wonder people get pissy in roundabouts.
*A certain small city in which the president of a private collage managed to get three of these things located at three corners of campus.