After reading and thinking about the latest debates over the stop signs at Ladd Circle, 24-year old Sellwood resident Joe Hand decided to take the issue into his own hands — or should I say, into his own oven.
Hand, a Colorado native who came to Portland to attend Reed College and then stayed here because he “loved it,” decided to embark on what he calls “an experiment in kindness.”
“Replace every controversial stop sign with a fresh chocolate chip cookie dispenser. Now, obviously this will be delicious. Sadly this is not a long term solution.”
On Wednesday night, Hand baked 100 chocolate chip cookies and then stood at the intersection of SE Ladd Avenue and Ladd Circle during the evening bike rush hour with a sign that read, “STOP for a Free Chocolate Chip Cookie.” This was the first of many experiments Hands plans to do with the goal to, “Address controversial issues with unconventional methods to put fresh perspective on the situation.”
Approaching the cookie experiment like any respectable Math-Economics graduate would, Hand documented the results and shared his observations on his blog (a highly entertaining read).
In a 30-minute stint (from 4:45 to 5:15), Hand says about 100 bike riders stopped (which was, “not even close to half” he recalls).
While he’s humble about any lasting impacts his experiment might have on people’s riding behavior, Hand says the he received a lot of positive feedback from neighbors and riders. And, in a nod to his greater mission, “Lots of people walked or biked away smiling.”
Beyond the smiles, Hand took away some important insights from his observations. On cars: “Cars exist on a different scale than bikers and walkers. They were very difficult to interact with.” On bikes: “People with headphones were mostly oblivious and generally slowed the least,” and “Most people stop when they have personal incentive to do so.”
He’s convinced that simply changing the stop signs to yields won’t solve all the problems (mostly, it won’t improve the situation for people trying walk across the intersection). Until the City does more significant engineering work, Hand suggests more respect and courtesy is the answer.
Hand says he hopes to tackle more controversial transportation issues with similar experiments throughout the summer. Read his recap of the experiment at SmilingJoe.com/freecookies.