Montreal’s Curious Stop Signs

Photo by Tom Vanderbilt

I was struck by these “arret” signs in Montreal, which have an additional sign informing the driver of which other roadways have a stop sign. In theory, I suppose, this is meant to be a good thing, giving the driver information as to who will be stopping, etc.

But there are a few problems. The first is that it took me a few weeks to even notice the supplementary information. The second is that often the sign is just providing redundant information (informing the driver, on say, a one-way street that the opposing street will not be stopping — but of course there will be no oncoming traffic as it’s one-way!). The third, as you can see in the photo, is that it just adds more information to an already complex and quite garish bouquet of warnings.

But the most objectionable thing about these signs is that they exist at all. These are scattered all over “Vieux Montreal,” which has a warren of narrow, pre-automobile streets, with an abundance of pedestrians and cyclists (and horse-drawn carriages). Drivers should be looking at the streets, looking around, not glancing up at a sign to discern who will be stopping and who won’t (that is, if they obey the sign in the first place).

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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 11th, 2008 at 10:23 am and is filed under Traffic Engineering, Traffic Signs, Traffic Wonkery. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “Montreal’s Curious Stop Signs”

  1. dlam Says:

    I live in Ontario and I’ve driven in Montreal often. I find teh additional sign useful.

    The additional sign is actually a graphical alternative to the standard North American practice of putting a small “all-way” sign at 4-way STOP intersections and omitting said sign at non-all-way STOP intersections. Arguably, a driver would be able to read and understand this graphical sign faster than if he spends time looking for the presence or absense of the small “all-way” sign (or searching for the back of STOP signs at the intersection).

  2. Daniel Says:

    The additional signs under the stop signs in Quebec are actually meant to be the equivalent of the “ALL-WAY” signs (“TOUTES DIRECTIONS” in Quebec) that are found elsewhere in North America and that warns drivers that all oncoming vehicles must stop at the intersection. Symbolic signs such as these have been created in order to avoid the use of text, therefore making them easy to read at a quick glance (at least in theory). They also have the advantage of avoiding the language issue.

    A comprehensive set of symbolic “ALL-WAY” signs have been designed in order to fit the different possible intersection configurations such as T junctions, Y junctions, 4-Way, 5-Way, and intersections with one-way streets (only approaches with oncoming traffic have stop signs). However, it is true that such detail may become an obstacle to clarity, especially when used with one-way streets as they suggest that not all vehicles will stop.

    I agree that the need for “ALL-WAY” signs, symbolic or textual, may be debatable. Of course, as pointed out with the picture, there is also the problem of overabundance and misuse of road signs…

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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