City of Portland crews have removed two stop signs on SE Caruthers Street at the intersection with SE Water. Initially installed in 2002, the stop signs have been a thorn in the side of many people who ride through the intersection and a source of frustration and complaints by others who say no one obeyed them.
Back in November, when the Bureau of Transportation announced they would remove the signs, City Traffic Engineer Rob Burchfield said the stop signs had been the source of numerous complaints. Some people complained about poor compliance with the signs from both people on bikes and in cars, and others complained that the signs seemed unnecessary.
Burchfield also said that the intersection had no history of crashes and that, “The non-compliance of the stop signs has not translated into any crash activity.”
In the westbound direction, PBOT has removed the stop sign and installed a new sign in its place that warns right-turning vehicles to yield to bicycles. Crews have also laid down “skip-striping” for the bike lane all the way through the intersection.
Caruthers and Waters is a “T” intersection and there is very little cross traffic on SE Water on the westbound side (the street no longer goes through, and so it’s essentially just a glorified driveway). On the eastbound side (at the flat part of the T), the stop sign was installed adjacent to driveways (driveways!) that led to private parking lots. This one was especially annoying for people on bikes who were just coming off the Eastbank Esplanade on their way to the Springwater Corridor Trail.
Given the placement and traffic situation at this intersection, it seemed clear that the stop signs were never warranted to begin with (more on that later). However, that didn’t stop them from becoming the source of frustration for the community, the cops, and the city for years.
Back in July of 2007, construction crews working on a project adjacent to the northeast corner of the intersection, got so frustrated that they installed their own sign that unabashedly stated (in capital letters), “BICYCLISTS MUST FOLLOW STOP SIGNS AND TRAFFIC DIRECTIONS!”.
These stop signs were also the location of a lot of enforcement activity by the Police Bureau, which, not surprisingly became a hot button issue.
Yesterday morning I talked to a few people about their experience riding through this intersection. Ann Watterson was happy to see the sign gone — especially because she got a $242 ticket for running through it two years ago.
Lara Utman has been biking through the intersection everyday for the past three years. She said, “this is a great place to try a switch like this because there’s almost no traffic coming through here.” Utman said she used to “just kind of slow down” at the sign, until she saw someone get a ticket.
Some people that rolled through Tuesday morning would glance up, then have a brief moment of confusion before continuing through. Many others didn’t even look up at the new sign, which leads me to think they didn’t even notice the old one either.
Utman was happy to see the change, even if it was a bit confusing at first. “I felt a little bit surprised the first time coming through,” she said, “like, oh, what am I supposed to do?”
— Stay tuned for more stop sign coverage. There are other intersections in Portland where stop signs should be removed…