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Category: Traffic Signs

If you obey the demands of this phone app, you’ll never have to wait at a stoplight again! If you are a pedestrian, anyway. Might also work for bicyclists and drivers!

Background:

In most American cities, four-way intersections with stoplights are the most common form of traffic control.

The issue:

As a pedestrian, these intersections are frustrating: if the stoplights are not synchronized, you’ll randomly encounter red lights while walking from block to block. But even when lights are synchronized, they are synchronized for car driving speeds. Thus, at normal walking speed, a pedestrian will inevitably spend a large fraction of travel time waiting at crosswalks for the light to turn green.

Although a pedestrian can increase or decrease their walking speed, it is difficult to select an optimal speed without knowing exactly when the light will change.

Proposal:

Fortunately, a phone app can easily measure walking speed and distance to the next traffic light, and then display a recommended walking speed that will get a pedestrian to the light when it is green (Figure 1).

2-stoplight-timer-app

Fig. 1: Since this phone knows how far the next light is and exactly when the light will change, it can recommend a walking pace that will get its owner to the light while the light is green. The green / gray arrow in the middle of the screen is a “progress bar,” showing the pedestrian’s current position relative to the previous intersection (base of arrow) and the next light (tip of arrow).

 

Using this app, a person can enjoy both a more leisurely pace at lights they’d miss anyway, and can walk ever-so-slightly faster (Figure 2) in order to make it through intersections just before the light turns red.

1-stoplight-timer

Fig. 2: In the top example (A), a pedestrian walks at a uniform pace that causes them to have to wait at two of the three lights. In the bottom example (B), the pedestrian is using our new app, and adjusts their walking speed to hit all the lights while they are green. Recommended walking speed is shown by the orange bar at the very bottom.

Conclusion:

This type of app would probably work for drivers and bicyclists as well (ideally through audio instructions).

PROS: Encourages walking in cities, thus improving national cardiovascular fitness.

CONS: Users of this app might wait at fewer lights, but would be at higher risk of being run over by a car / bicyclist / steamroller while distracted by the app’s various recommendations and statistics.

Don’t get too excited, but it’s YET ANOTHER idea about stop signs! Maybe this blog should be renamed “Worst Traffic Signage Proposals.”

 

Background:

When a driver comes to a stop sign, they don’t intuitively know whether it is a two-way or an all-way stop. The difference is important, because a lot more diligence is required at an intersection where cross traffic does not stop.

The issue:

See Figure 1: if you add a bunch of trees, parked cars, buildings, and other visual obstructions, it can be very difficult to determine whether the other cross streets have stop signs or not.

stop-1

Fig. 1: In this bleak gray-and-white plain, it’s easy to tell that the cross traffic does not stop, but in reality there will be a number of trees / cars / buildings that obstruct the driver’s view.

Proposal:

Lanes of traffic that specifically do NOT stop could be marked with lines on the ground (see Figure 2), similar to a crosswalk.

stop-2-green-markings

Fig. 2: This green arrow (which extends through the intersection, as seen above) is a visual indicator to inform drivers that cross traffic does not stop.

The only downside to this would be that people might start to assume that the lack of lines would mean “cross traffic DOES stop.” In that case, an alternative formulation could be made where the lanes that do stop are specifically marked ini an obvious fashion (see Figure 3). (Although existing intersections do occasionally have a white line and the word “STOP” painted on them, this marking is very inconsistent and is not at all visually obvious).

stop-3-blue

Fig. 3: A) In order to prevent drivers from relying too much on “lack of any marking = cross traffic DOES stop,” we could invert the scenario and explicitly mark the lanes of traffic that WILL stop (orange dots here). B) The blue arrow is another possible example of a more aggressively obvious pattern to indicate lack of traffic stopping.

Conclusion:

You should buy some stock in companies that sell road-suitable paint, and then propose this idea as an amendment to your state’s constitution (assuming that is a possibility).

PROS: May reduce accidents at two-way-stops-misinterpreted-as-four-way-stops, which might be a major cause of residential car crashes (probably someone knows this, but not me).

CONS: Doesn’t work very well when there is snow on the roadway. Additionally, paint requires substantial maintenance to keep visible; roads might need to be repainted a lot more often, for unclear benefit.