Unwarranted stop sign near White Rock Lake

[This is a letter I just sent to a Dallas civil engineer asking him to remove a recently-installed, unwarranted stop sign.]

Mohammed,

Recently, an all-way stop sign was put up at West Lawther Rd. and White Rock Rd. on the west side of White Rock Lake. Through an open records request, I have received a copy of the warrants. I’ve attached those and your field observations to this email. [The warrants and field observations.]

I am concerned that this new stop sign does not meet the claimed warrants and therefore needlessly inconveniences road users, increases risk of undeserved traffic tickets, and created a hazardous situation.

The first warrant finds a need to control left hand conflicts. To prove this, I want to see obstructed sight lines, high traffic volumes, or some interaction of the two. In fact, none of this is a problem. I have driven through this intersection many times. Visibility is fine, and outside exceptional times (e.g., exceptionally-crowded events at White Rock Lake), the traffic volumes rarely require any wait for left turns. (Remember that traffic controls should be based on normal conditions, not outlier events for which the city already requires individualized, affirmative measures to control traffic.)

Here’s an aerial map from Google Maps:

This intersection only has two left turn conflicts: northbound White Rock Rd. turning left on westbound White Rock Rd. and southbound West Lawther Rd. turning left on southbound White Rock Rd.

There is no visibility problem for either left turn.

Left turn at northbound White Rock Rd. has no visibility problem either direction. Looking north while stopped at the stop line:

Looking west:

There is plenty of unobstructed sight to make a safe turn.

Southbound W. Lawther left turn to southbound White Rock Road also has acceptable geometrics to facilitate safe left turns.

This is the southbound W. Lawther view at the stop sign, looking south, and a little forward of the stop sign:

Traffic heading north, emerging from the park, will be going slowly. It will have just passed through a narrow railroad underpass, made a tight 90 degree turn, and will be slowing for a stop sign.

Same intersection, looking west:

Excellent visibility. Further note that eastbound cars may be approaching at less than the 30 mph speed limit. They will have just approached from an all-way stop at White Rock Rd. and Winsted Rd. Additionally, the traffic will be slowing for the sharp curve anyway; a 25 mph advisory speed is posted for eastbound traffic around the curve.

Here’s the irony: this all-way stop creates two new hazards:

  1. The stop sign encourages left-turning SB W. Lawther traffic to stop further back. Compare the following photo to the prior one of the intersection:

    Note that I was actually stopped a few feet pastthe stop sign; had I been stopped with the front of my car at the sign, as required by law, I would have even worse view of oncoming traffic. Additionally, eastbound traffic approaching on White Rock Rd. now has a worse view of southbound W. Lawther traffic. Below is a picture I took approaching on eastbound White Rock Rd.; the white car has already completely passed the stop sign before it became visible to me.

    Normally, this is roughly where rational motorists would stop before taking a left turn. The stop sign pushed this point further back.
  2. Left-turning southbound W. Lawther traffic used to only have to monitor one direction: eastbound White Rock Trail traffic. Thanks to the all way stop, southbound W. Lawther traffic has to negotiate both directions as all directions have equal right of way. This ambiguity causes confusion, which causes crashes.

Your own field observation confirms the absence of a traffic volume problem. In 30 minutes, you recorded 74 vehicles pass through the formerly uncontrolled part of the intersection (vehicles coming from EB White Rock Rd. or SB W. Lawther). That means the mere 9 cars approaching the intersection from the park have, on average, 24 seconds between potentially conflicting vehicles. Clearly, there is no problem here with traffic volumes.

The second warrant is whether there is a need to control vehicle/pedestrian conflicts near locations that generate high pedestrian volumes. Again, this warrant is unmet.

Given our relatively dry conditions over the past few months and no sidewalks, “high pedestrian volumes” will be readily apparent with grass trails. Indeed, you do see a pedestrian path on the south side of White Rock Rd. while west from the intersection:

But the rest of the intersection is notable for its lack of pedestrian activity. Here’s the view headed north from the intersection:

In other pictures in this document, you’ll find no additional evidence of pedestrian usage of the intersection.

A satellite photo makes it even clearer:

The only pedestrian traffic is heading west from the elevated trail (old railroad right of way), heading west to cross White Rock Rd. a few car lengths south of the intersection, then continuing west along the south side of White Rock Rd.

On top of that, there’s not even a valid reason for pedestrians to cross the intersection—the other side only has the fenced backs of houses, and safer crossing points exist within less than a minute of walking in either direction.

Given that the in-intersection pedestrian traffic is minimal, possibly nonexistent, and that there is no compelling reason for pedestrians to cross the road in the intersection, and safe alternative crossings are a brief walk away, if in-intersection pedestrian traffic is even considered a problem, it would be better to just ban pedestrian crossings at the intersection.

The third warrant asks whether there is a visual obstruction that will prevent safe vehicle movement unless conflicting directions are required to stop.

As clearly demonstrated above, the only visual obstructions were created by the all way stop.

To conclude, the all way stop sign at White Rock Rd. and W. Lawther Rd. meets no warrants, and it makes the intersection less safe. I respectfully ask that you revert the intersection to its prior state, where only northbound White Rock Road, emerging from the park, had a stop sign.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Aren Cambre

One thought on “Unwarranted stop sign near White Rock Lake”

  1. As a cyclist, I noticed this new stop sign a few weeks ago with real displeasure. I cycle on White Rock Road often. The new stop sign requires cyclists to stop on the way up a hill–for no reason at all, as you show. (I would grin and bear it if there WERE a good reason to stop there.)

    I’m inclined to think the reason for the stop sign is to make money off of cyclists who will certainly cycle or roll through the sign because the laws of physics will trump the rules of the road here, where neither traffic nor visibility warrants a stop sign. That’s what happens on the east side of the lake at Tiffany, too, where the police wait behind the trees in the distance for cyclists rolling (or whizzing) through on a downhill with total, 100% visibility. (At least there, the law-abiding cyclist is not required to start on a hill.) I notice that the police do NOT plant themselves at the more dangerous stop sign at the end of the ramp onto East Lawther from the eastbound Mockingbird causeway, which suggests to me that revenue, not safety, is the real motivation for the police presence.

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