Chicagoans make stop signs obsolete at Holstein Park

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Photo of the northern entrance to Holstein Park by YoChicago1. 

The stop sign has become obsolete, at least in the place where I’d expect most people want it, in front of a popular neighborhood park bustling with children.

No, those who are driving past Holstein Park aren’t stopping on their own, without the presence of a stop sign. The reverse is true: they are not stopping in the presence of a stop sign. The device is no longer used. Watch this video uploaded by “mea2214” of people driving east on Lyndale Street at Oakley Avenue (in the 32nd Ward). Here’s the Street View location.

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Watch the video on YouTube.

This set of 16 cars was taken at a stop sign next to Holstein Park. The shown stop sign is for cars going east on Lyndale toward Leavitt. The gated sign gives away that this is Holstein Park. This part of the park is for young children and was recently rehabbed and completed in 2006. I took this shot from 7:45 – 8:10 PM on 6/12/2012 and compressed [edited] it down to around a minute [by removing all lulls in movement on the street].

The creator says that all cars that passed in the time frame are shown and that the video is not “cherry picking” for behaviors. They have one other video showing similar behaviors at an unidentified intersection in Bucktown.

I showed the video to a friend of mine, Ash Lottes, who has a kid, lives in Chicago, and frequently visits Holstein Park in the summer. She sent me her thoughts:

This is an epidemic but it isn’t surprising. Twenty years ago Chicago’s residential streets had a quarter of the stop signs in place today but probably the same amount of law abiding from drivers. Drivers are inundated by signage: “stop for pedestrian”, “stop here on red”, “children at play”, and, if anything they’ve become more brazen in their behavior. I see zero enforcement for stop signs and stop lights in our neighborhoods and even if ticketed, the penalties are preposterously low for the amount of damage that could be caused by striking a pedestrian or cyclist. Until we see honest-to-God penalties for reckless behavior, drivers’ actions will only get more careless.

On this stretch of Lyndale, I estimate that 90% of the drivers are residents of Bucktown. There’s a light at Lyndale and Western and people see it as an easy cut through despite the innumerable stop signs and speed bumps on this stretch. The neighborhood is filled with young children and many of these drivers are parents. No one ever thinks their own carelessness will lead to anything serious. Shave an extra 20 seconds off your commute home and pat yourself on the back. This park is a gem in the neighborhood and a true destination spot. Many older kids walk their young siblings alone to the park so there isn’t always adult supervision to ensure that the kids make it there and home safely. It’s depressing that what should be the inalienable right to get to your local park or school safely is being usurped so that your neighbor can get to their garage a fraction of a minute sooner.

This video was filmed and posted on June 12, 2012. It is especially relevant as the City is installing “stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk” signs in many wards, and residents debate their effectiveness.

22 thoughts on “Chicagoans make stop signs obsolete at Holstein Park”

  1. I don’t believe Ash is exaggerating with the term “epidemic.” It’s up there with the soon-to-be-extinct turn signal. My favorite is when you’re actually stopping at a stop sign and someone behind you gets visibly upset that you actually fully stop. I lived in South Evanston for a while, and I kept telling the police that they could get their entire year’s budget by just policing the stop sign at Custer & Brummel, just north of Howard. That one might as well have been a yield.

  2. Just so I’m reading this right – if the video was compressed from 15 minutes to one, does that mean we are getting an inaccurate view of how quickly the cars are going through the intersection?

    Clearly almost none of these vehicles came to a complete stop, but I think it’s important to know if motorists are actually cruising at “full” speed and completely disregarding the stop sign, which the video suggests.

    1. The video creator means that all lulls in action on the street were cut. So you only see the car movement and not an empty street.
      I don’t believe the video speed has been changed.

      1. agreed, tried to edit but this first post went through, sorry. it’s a powerful point, but I’d prefer to see the author understand the terminology though, as compression & editing are two very different things.

  3. Small point of accuracy in labeling (not your mistake, but you’ve passed it along):

    Editing and compressing are not the same thing, compressing from 25 minutes to one would mean all of those cars were moving 25x less fast, which seems unlikely to be the case, based on the pedestrian walking.

  4. I got mixed feelings about this video. Yes, most cars do not stop ( or slow down enough to call it a stop), but a quick scan showed that not one time was there a pedestrian visible and that the cars that came to a stop did so because there was another car in the intersection. That appears to be standard behavior: no other traffic around? roll through the stop sign. Other traffic around? Come to a stop.

    Also, if I do the math correctly, one car moves through the intersection every two minutes? That means that the intersection is empty the majority of the time. I find that hard to believe, given the location of the intersection. And if the traffic count is true, then I am wondering what the issue is? It appears that not once did a driver cut off a pedestrian.

    1. IMO the put-a-stop-sign-at-every-intersection craze has desensitized drivers to stop signs. People obeyed them more when they weren’t omnipresent, as now drivers get in a rhythm of just rolling through them – in the past there were way less stop signs, so they stuck out more & drivers respected them (better than this video illustrates, anyway).

      My takeaway is that signage alone not only doesn’t work, but in fact if done to excess can be counterproductive. We need enforcement.

    2. I can’t agree with your point. The purpose of a stop sign is not to stop when pedestrians or cross-traffic are visible, because visibility isn’t always guaranteed. I go past this intersection often both in a car and on a bike. There almost always are a lot of little kids at this intersection, and they come out of nowhere fast. One of these days, somebody who rolls through this stop sign is going to kill a kid who wasn’t visible.

      1. Your comment proves my point in a way. If little children are around all the time as you say, why don’t we see a single example of that in the video? It shouldn’t that hard to capture that.
        If the purpose of this video was to show a specific unsafe situation, the poster failed at it. This could be at any intersection in Chicago.

        Now, if only I could figure out how to get italics in my post…

          1. Thanks for that link.

            Maybe I wasn’t clear. I am not arguing with your comments that there are a lot of children playing at Holstein Park. But if the owner of that video wanted to proof that this intersection is particularly dangerous because of the many children running in and out of the park, he did a poor job. Maybe he should have come back another day?
            As-is, this video could be shot at any intersection in the city. Cars rolling though stop signs…just another day in Chicago

          2. I gave you that link in kindness. Do not be so bold as to think you can abuse it. 😉
            I don’t think the person who made the video was arguing that this intersection is dangerous because of the children. He was arguing that this intersection was dangerous because of the cars running the stop sign. He represented this by showing lots of cars running the stop sign. It doesn’t matter that this could be any intersection in Chicago. All that says is that any intersection in Chicago is dangerous.

          3. More than anything my comment confirms my frustrations with traffic and road design in Chicago. A stop sign appears to be the standard solution for any traffic problem. As a result there are so many stop signs hat they completely lost their effectiveness. Take a look at my neighborhood for example. It is bordered by Clark, Ridge, Broadway, and Foster. Almost every single intersection is controlled by stop-signs (the exceptions being the 3 way intersections on Glenwood). Yet drivers still roll through stop signs. Is that because drivers are inherently evil? Is it really an us v. them situation? Or is it because there are so many that don’t really serve a purpose the majority of the time (i.e. there is no other traffic around when a car approaches the intersection)?

            Combine that with a total lack of enforcement and a lack of education efforts on rules of the road, and I am not surprised that drivers roll through stop signs (and bicyclist blow red lights, and pedestrians jaywalk with impunity, and delivery trucks park in bike lanes, the list goes on-and-on)

            You have written before that there are better ways to design safe streets. Bump outs and raised intersections are just a few of them. But these designs require significant money and potentially an expenditure of political goodwill by the alderman. It is much cheaper to install a stop sign (or a stop for pedestrian sign for that matter) and still makes the alderman look good. (For the record: I am not immune to this pandering to voters. I just send my Alderman a thank you note for installing a stop for pedestrian sign on Clark and Olive)

            In the case of the situation in this video what is the real problem? Is it that car traffic rolls through the stop sign? Or is it that the intersection is just too big and requires more innovative and traffic disrupting safety measures to become truly safe?

            So until we step up enforcement, education efforts, and start designing truly safe streets instead of planting more stop signs, it is indeed just another day in Chicago.

          4. I wouldn’t call it car culture. Cyclists run stop signs and lights all the time, and many will defend doing it, saying it’s okay if they look around as they’re rolling through the stop sign or light. Pedestrians also fail to obey markings and signals. Some things can be pinned on car drivers alone but not this.

  5. Duppie – I was at Holstein this morning and was almost creamed by two cars who ran the stop sign. Happens pretty much every single time I venture over there.

  6. People seem to take almost everything as a suggestion in city driving — the speed limit, stop signs, center lines, where you can park. Sometimes it just seems like the natural result of a driving in a slow, congested area. People end up reacting more to what is in front of them (or not in front of them) rather than strictly obeying signs.

    And it’s not just cars — cyclists run stop signs (and red lights!) all the time. Pedestrians jaywalk constantly, even when they’re a few yards from a crosswalk. I don’t really see how we can change people’s approach to driving, cycling, and walking without consistent enforcement, and we’d have to triple the police force for that.

  7. A 5 year old girl was killed in a hit and run tonight. I will not even attempt to use the word “accident”.

    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/07/02/girl-5-dies-after-being-struck-in-west-side-hit-and-run/

    The survival rate for children in collisions increases dramatically as the speed of the automobile is reduced. The speed limit on our residential streets is 25. Oak Park has erected speed limit signs that say something along the lines of “25 to survive” depicting children at play. I have no idea if they’ve had an impact but I’m curious to discover what speed the driver that killed this little girl was going.

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