Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Why there are stop signs in Phoenix, Arizona


If you've ever wondered why there are stop signs in Phoenix, or anywhere for that matter, you must have been an annoying kid, like I was. I guess I still am!

I haven't been back to the neighborhood where I grew up, and learned to drive in, Minneapolis, for a very long time, but I distinctly recall what were called "uncontrolled intersections". That is, there were no stop signs on the neighborhood streets. I was taught that if a car was slightly ahead of me at an intersection that I would yield for it, the same way that I yield for a shopping cart in a grocery store, or let someone step out of an elevator before me. Only the major streets had stop signs and traffic lights.

I moved to Phoenix in 1977, and whether it was a changing of eras, or a changing of location, I don't know, but I saw a LOT of stop signs. And in a long life in the Phoenix area, I've rarely seen uncontrolled intersections. I've even seen stop signs in the parking lots. And since I've always been interested in how cities grow, and I have some idea how expensive stop signs are, it's always intrigued me.

The photo at the top of this post is of the Sun Valley Parkway that I took in 2015. If you had been with me that day, you could have easily strolled out into the intersection of Sun Valley and Bethany Home Road, and sat down there. For as long as you wanted. If a car happened to go by, you could get up, but you'd have to wait a very long time, and you can see for miles in both directions. And, as you can see, it's a T-intersection. And it goes from a smaller road to a larger road. My little "Minneapolis driving" brain laughed at this. Why in the world would there be a stop sign there? But I suppose that it's some kind of law, a requirement.

Stop signs, like traffic lights, are put there for when an area gets so crowded that it becomes difficult for drivers to know when it's their turn to go. And Phoenix was crowded from the first time I saw it. I had never seen such wide roads - even the neighborhood roads were much wider than the ones I learned to drive on in Minneapolis. It just makes sense.

Image at the top of this post: the intersection of the Sun Valley Parkway and Bethany Home Road, west of the White Tank Mountains. You're looking east.

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