She feels sorry for my future kids?
When someone tells someone, “I feel sorry for your future children,” that’s typically taken as just about the worst thing someone can say to another—-that she thinks the person will be a horrible parent. So it came as a surprise when a close friend not only told me this, but did so in a public forum, in front of my 100+ Facebook friends. That was deeply hurtful. I did not say, “I believe in corporal punishment.” I did not say, “I don’t think children need seatbelts.” I did not even say, “I think tv’s in kids’ bedrooms slow kids’ mental growth.” I stated my opposition to stop signs on major streets, and repeated that opposition even if I were to have children. And for that she feels sorry for my future children?
That’s a serious charge, and I hope she reconsiders her sentiment. There is no evidence whatsoever that stop signs on major streets make the streets safer for children or pedestrians. I have given a number of reasons for my opposition to stop signs on major streets. I’ll reiterate them here:
1. They stop traffic for no good reason, wasting time and fuel and inflicting additional wear and tear on vehicles.
2. Slower traffic and stop signs on major streets encourage drivers to use side streets, where they are more likely to encounter pedestrians and children playing in the streets.
3. Illinois law already requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. If police enforced this law, we wouldn’t need stop signs to help pedestrians cross major streets.
4. Municipalities often install stop signs to “protect” schools, parks and senior citizen homes that produce pedestrians just a few hours a day. For a school, this is just 180 days a year. Park visitors only use a park in good weather. The rest of the time, the sign stops traffic for no reason whatsoever. This sign that started this discussion is for a school, a whole quarter-mile away (5-min. walk, longer for little kids). No one disputes that the kids are out and using the crosswalk at Touhy just two hours a day on school days. The other 22 hours on school days (180 days), and 24 hours on non-school days, the stop sign stops traffic for…..? One friend suggested, Well, it’s easier to walk to Young Israel of West Rogers Park on shabbos. Yes, it is. And anyone who minds waiting a minute for traffic to stop is being very, very selfish.
5. There is simply no justification for a solitary stop sign within a nine-mile stretch (probably longer—I’ll need to check) of stop sign-free roadway. I’m sure angry residents in Lincolnwood and Morton Grove can come up with a long list of more deserving intersections. But I think there’s an understanding, which alderman have no compunction about violating, that major streets are not to be tampered with.
6. A single stop sign on a major street always draws demands from residents for additional stop signs on “their” intersections. I could give so many examples just off the top of my head of former fast thoroughfares now stop-and-go due to stop signs, just on the North Side alone: California Avenue, Halsted Street, Sheffield Avenue, Clark Street, Sheridan Road, Lawrence Avenue, Randolph Street and Broadway.
7. My friend who fears for my future children mentioned a fatality and “what-iffed” that a stop sign may have saved his life. This is one of those cause-effect relationships that seems logical but doesn’t really exist. Case study: Maya Hirsh obm. Maya was a little girl visiting Lincoln Park Zoo with her family a couple of years ago. As she crossed Cannon Drive, a crazed motorist ran a stop sign, killing her instantly. Authorities determined the driver to be mentally unsound and without a drivers license. (He was also Ald. Stone’s neighbor in Winston Towers.) The stop sign near the Lincoln Park Zoo entrance, which I think should only be in force during zoo hours, didn’t prevent the driver from killing Maya. Funny how drivers prone to vehicular homicide don’t pay too much attention to stop signs.
8. More stop signs reduce compliance among drivers. My friend who fears for my future children may not have visited West Rogers Park lately. The situation is out of control. Almost every intersection has a four-way stop sign. California, once free of stop signs, now has four in 12 blocks in addition to the three traffic lights in that stretch. A T-intersection has a stop sign despite the fact that the cross street that terminates at the intersection is one way “in,” meaning cross-traffic is impossible. (The stop sign “protects” a park.) Of the four high-rise towers on Kedzie Avenue, one inexplicably has a stop sign—the one the alderman lives in. Motorists give up and simply ignore them, making our streets less safe.
Authorities and communities can take sensible steps to make streets and intersections safer without inconveniencing all motorists and their passengers. Enforce crosswalks. Fence off or ban pedestrians from unsafe crossing areas—force them to walk to the nearest controlled intersection. (At Washtenaw, where the new stop sign is, stoplights are one block away in each direction.) Use new technology to highlight pedestrians in crosswalks so vehicles stop for them without forcing vehicles to stop 24-7. More 24-hr. traffic controls (stop signs and lights) are not the answer.