Signs don’t equal Safety – Don’t support the All Way Stop at Ellerslie & Tamworth

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

The lyrics of Signs by Five Man Electrical Band always pop into my head when someone starts talking signs for safety: be they  speed limit signs, stop signs, or shoes required signs.  I do not support signs, and the neighbourhood is currently petitioning to get some new stop signs installed down the street, to convert a two-way stop to an All-Way stop, so here is my argument against this instance.  As a “long haired freaky people“, it seems to be the minority view, but I think with a little bit of consideration and research, you may change your mind.

First off, we are not traffic engineers.  I don’t necessarily put faith in ‘experts’, but if you want to play the role of considering traffic flow, then consider traffic flow in the entire neighbourhood, not just at a single intersection.  Changing an intersection will have impacts many intersections away in a variety of ways.  What if your support for a change at this intersection, resulted in an accident nearby?  NIMBY is a slippery slope to go down.  All-way stops are put in place to assist with negotiating right of way, when the intersection has near-equal traffic in all directions.  This intersection as one of its four directions is a dead end, you can assume right off the bat that it will not have equal traffic in all directions.  Studies have also shown that drivers will increase their speed between intersections to make up for their ‘lost time’ of having stopped.  Whoops?

I don’t like pollution.  Asking the majority of motorists approaching this intersection to increase their emissions and noise produced are two forms of pollution I’d rather keep out of the neighbourhood, not to mention the increased fuel consumption compounding over the next few decades that the sign would be there.  Oil doesn’t grow on trees (anymore).  If this isn’t obvious, when you accelerate from a stop, you use a lot more fuel, your engine is louder doing so, and when you are idle at the stop, and when  you are accelerating there are many more emissions in the area.

Risk compensation is a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behavior in response to the perceived level of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected.  Pedestrians and cyclists at the intersection could end up crossing in a more risky fashion, assuming the competition at the intersection will be stopping.   Shared Space in urban design pushes this edge considerably and I lean towards this when ever I discuss traffic signs and road conditions with people.

The attention this has gotten in the neighbourhood shouldn’t be ignored, but let’s not knee-jerk our support for the All-Way stop, but rather channel the concerns into  looking at the larger issue of how can we make our community a better one for people traveling with-in it, and through it, on a larger scale.

Please also consider how well you are perceiving the ‘danger’ here.  Risk Perception is a funny thing.

Some more traffic related links if you’d like:


4 thoughts on “Signs don’t equal Safety – Don’t support the All Way Stop at Ellerslie & Tamworth

  1. Paul Leinonen

    I agree with everything you have said. The increased fuel consumption and pollution is the one that really gets my goat. And it’s not just at Ellerslie and Tamworth. There are far too many 4-way stop signs in our city and the only things they do are to increase pollution and delay traffic. I would be much more in favour of reduced speed limits, although I think that the 40 km/h limit on Beecroft is ridiculous. If people are speeding at a limit of 50 km/h, how is just lowering the limit going to help? Put a lower speed limit in the school, zone as they do everywhere else, if it is such a problem. And enforce that speed limit. As far as I can see, most people just ignore the speed measurement and the flashing strobes anyway.Let John Filion know about your ideas. Someone must have complained so others have to counteract that complaint.

  2. lukev

    a Roundabout would be much better than a stop sign here.

    In fact, roundabouts would be a better alternative to almost every stop sign in the city. They have been proven empirically safer (and harder to blow through) than stop signs, all around the world.

  3. anonymous

    See Committee’s (2019 June 27) attachment 17 Traffic Control Warrants Review

    My read on the All-Way Stop Control (AWSC) recommendation is that it is an attempt at harmonization: “This change would also be consistent with other traffic control measure warrants, such as the traffic control signal and the pedestrian crossover.” Only one factor of 2 stands out in OTMs 12 & 15; it refers to “assisted pedestrian volume” (e.g. age below 12 years or senior or otherwise more vulnerable). On a positive note, staff did observe the expected impact that “Future staff assessment of the need for an AWSC may result in more locations meeting the warrant” (in Table 7 of the 2019 June 13 report titled Vision Zero 2.0 – Road Safety Plan Update).


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