The Four-Way Stop that Almost Is

Shortly after moving into my house on 10th Avenue and 25th Street in South Minneapolis, I noticed that there seemed to be an inordinate amount of honking coming from the intersection. Not even kidding, as I typed that sentence a long blaring horn sounded from the corner outside. Several times an hour, it was HONK HONK HONK all day long.

I gradually realized that this was a result of the design of the intersection. Drivers going East-West on 25th Street don’t have a stop sign, while drivers going North-South on 10th Avenue do. However, 25th Street does have a yield to pedestrians sign in the location where a stop sign would typically be placed, if there were one. As one approaches the intersection on 10th Avenue, one sees the back of a stop sign-sized sign where a stop sign would be expected. Peripheral vision being what it is, drivers don’t always correctly distinguish between octagon and rectangle with triangle on top.


On 10th Avenue going North



On 25th Street going East

To illustrate this phenomenon I went ahead and stuck a GoPro on the side of the house and recorded the intersection. As you can imagine, this turned out to be a bit of a watched-pot phenomenon, so it took me several recording sessions to get enough footage. One thing that happened a lot was, I’d hear three honks in a row, think “that’s it I’m putting the GoPro out,” and then nothing. You’ll just have to take my word that the type of events shown in the video happen many times every day.

I’ve witnessed a crash at this intersection live from the porch, and (to my infinite chagrin!) I missed capturing this little gem that came to me by way of my neighborhood listserv:

Incident location: 10th Ave & 25th St on Tuesday, 6/23, 3:20 pm.
Offense: carrying a weapon without permit. There was a car crash on the corner. Apprehended person was seen putting a gun in his waistband. After a foot chase the handgun was recovered.

The most interesting thing about reviewing all this footage was that it was almost as common (though significantly less dangerous) for drivers going East-West on 25th Street to interpret the intersection as being a four-way stop as it was for drivers on 10th Avenue, and was the source of a lot of awkward “will they or won’t they?” moments. Basically, this intersection is begging to be a four-way stop. I assume the relevant staff at the city are reading this, so consider it my formal request.

19 thoughts on “The Four-Way Stop that Almost Is

  1. jeffk

    If it were up to me I’d replace all stop signs at intersections with < 500 cars a day with yield signs.

    1. Wayne

      I’d then equip all pedestrians with rocks and road spikes to make sure they can stop cars to actually cross the street.

      1. jeffk

        The key here is low volume. There are usually no cars. And the hope is to encourage cars to move slowly and steadily rather than jerking back and forth between 0 and 35 mph. That situation is more pleasant for everyone, especially bikers who also tend to move slowly and steadily. For what it’s worth I saw a lot of this in Europe, and I liked it both as a pedestrian and a driver.

    1. Shawn

      Concur. Let’s not be the passive aggressive but won’t really do anything about it types. I contacted the city about a safety hazard in my neck of the woods and got a change made. You can too!

  2. UrbanDoofus

    Totally fascinating to watch. Seems like the people with no stop sign came to more complete stops than people with stop signs!

    It was also hard to figure out who was honking, and why? The guy with the stop sign honking at the person without the stop sign who may be stopped?

    Anyway, you’re my hero for doing this.

  3. NiMo

    I don’t get why there are so many two way stops in Minneapolis. I grew up in DC and it seems like there are four way stops at every intersection like the one filmed above and it works better IMO. It’s much nicer to walk around certainly and it’s nicer to drive with the certainty that every car is at least supposed to stop at every intersection. I feel like any time gained at intersections where you don’t have to stop is lost at the ones where you have to take care not to do all the stuff the people are doing in the video.

    The only time the mass all way stopping is annoying is when you’re on a bike. Then it’s a big bummer, even when doing Idaho stops.

    1. Alex

      One of the goals when they were “modernizing” the traffic system in the 50s in Minneapolis was to retain automotive through routes. They would leave a long stretch of random side streets signed without stops (one example I know of is 6th St SE in Marcy Homes, which didn’t have a stop sign between Central and 8th or so) and naively assumed that people would drive at the appropriate speed. Of course you got dangerous speeds as a routine occurrence. Neighbors have had to resist this piecemeal and Public Works has always preferred to switch the stop sign direction rather than put in four-ways because of their long-standing bias in favor of cars. Auto-dependence is just part of Minnesotan culture, like hot dish and jello salad.

  4. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    Interesting. I have seen some other instances of a 3-way stop at a 4-way intersection, but usually only at the crest or top of a steep hill — like 54th & Fremont, where EB 54th St doesn’t stop, but the other three legs do. There are clear signs in advance, though (“Oncoming traffic does not stop’).

    1. Joe ScottJoe Scott Post author

      Sorry I should have explained it better in the post, drivers going East OR West on 25th just have a yield to peds sign, drivers going North or South on 10th have a stop sign, so it’s a 2-way stop.

      1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

        Oh got it. Now that I look closer, it does seem to be a pretty standard installation, as to any place where you’d put a crosswalk — in general, it’d be a marked crosswalk (plus signage) on the busier street, and the less-busy streets stops.

        All-way stops should have a small “ALL-WAY” or “4-WAY” placard beneath them, which these signs do not. Optionally, agencies sometimes install “CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP” signs (usually in yellow rectangles) when there is ambiguity.

        If the traffic doesn’t demand a four-way stop, it seems like you might at least be able to use the video to get them to install “CROSS TRAFFIC DOES NOT STOP”. And hopefully mark the crosswalk!

  5. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    That was fascinating to watch. I live one house from a corner at a T-intersection and I watch cars blow down my residential street and take the turn at remarkable speed, not stopping. Happens so much, and at speeds so high, I was tempted to mount a camera to record it all like this.

  6. Scott

    I work in lots of small towns, where there are still lots of uncontrolled intersections. It’s amazing to me how well that works to slow traffic down. Every intersection is approached with care before proceeding across, and I think it would work better for bikes, too.

    Most of these are in states where the speed limit is 25 mph unless posted otherwise, so our excessive 30 mph standard combined with an expectation that all intersections are controlled helps make situations like this even more hazardous.

    1. Joe ScottJoe Scott

      I also think an uncontrolled/four way yield intersection might ultimately be better than a four-way stop. I considered proposing that, but like you say, driver expectations that intersections will be controlled would likely mean some drivers coming from both directions would go through at full speed.

      I guess a yield sign facing each direction with an additional “4-way” sign under it could work. Maybe this intersection would be a good test case.

  7. Lindsey WallaceLindsey Wallace

    Is it necessary to have the pedestrian yield signs at all? Perhaps a crosswalk on the street would have the same effect and would lessen confusion among drivers.

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