Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Attention Mayor Daley!

Dear Honorable Richard M. Daley,

As I was bicycling the street route from the North Branch Trail toward the lakefront, I made a shocking discovery. In the Edgebrook neighborhood, I encountered two (2!) intersections with no traffic controls whatsoever. No stoplights, no stop signs, no yield signs, nothing. I trust that this is only a temporary condition and that your "traffic-calming" methods will be implemented soon.

Overall I don't have many complaints about how the city of Chicago is run, but this traffic calming crap has to stop! The idea is that by placing stop signs everywhere (along with occasional speed bumps), drivers will slow down. But it really just frustrates people and encourages them to run stop signs. When there are stop signs at every minor street, people don't recognize which intersections are truly important or dangerous. So they treat them all the same and roll right through.

The mayor wants to encourage people to ride bicycles. I want to obey traffic laws (though I may be in the minority of riders). But when there is a stop sign at every freaking intersection, bicycling becomes a tedious process of braking, downshifting, accelerating, and upshifting with only a few hundred feet at most of real riding in between. City streets are not my favorite cycling environment to begin with, but what little pleasure I find between dodging open car doors and potholes has been sucked away by the proliferation of stop signs in the name of traffic calming.

My nearest bike path is in River Park (part of the North Shore Channel path described in Biking Illinois) only one mile from my home. To get there, I have to negotiate eleven (11!!) stop signs plus one stoplight. At every intersection, traffic in all directions must stop; there are no "two-way" stops. Another favorite example of traffic calming gone wild is Manor Avenue. Though the street is only 0.6 mile long, one encounters eight (8!) stop signs plus a railroad crossing and a speed bump. On top of that, four of those stop signs are placed at intersections with dead-end streets less than a block long. Earlier this year, Eric Zorn ranted about drivers and cyclists ignoring stop signs, but with ridiculous policies like Mayor Daley has implemented, it's hard to obey the law if you ever want to get anywhere.

Mayor Daley paints himself "green" with his rooftop gardens and such, but how much environmental damage is caused by traffic calming? All those stop signs have a significant impact on gasoline consumption and pollution creation. A motor uses much less energy to maintain speed than to accelerate, but drivers on Manor Avenue have to accelerate eight times in one kilometer!

A lot of people drive like idiots in Chicago, and a good number of cyclists are guilty as well. But the solution is to enforce traffic laws, not to make travel on every street painful. Limit the number of stop signs and issue citations for those who run through them. If people are driving too fast, well, that's what those new laser speed guns are for -- if drivers had any fear whatsoever of traffic laws actually being enforced, they wouldn't drive as recklessly as they do. All those stupid stop signs don't help anyone when people habitually run them. Just ask the family of this kid.

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