It’s not a feature I would have noticed until several months ago, when a former employer pointed it out to me. And my guess is that 99% of the motorists aren’t entirely aware of it either, even if the majority of them abide by it. From the red ellipses below, you can see what I’m trying to identify here:
The stop bar is staggered, with the outer lane, closer to the curb, allowing cars to pull closer than the inner lane. Municipal public works offices have been quietly introducing the practice to intersections all across the country, and to my knowledge it hasn’t made much of a wave. It surreptitiously prompts the drivers in the inner lane—in Mooresville’s case, the left-turn lane—to stop more prematurely than the outer lane. Thus, drivers in the outer lane who are seeking to turn right on a red (legal in
This is useful to traffic flow on potentially congested intersections, and obviously what is good for traffic flow is not always conducive to pedestrian safety. If this were in another, more auto-centric area of Mooresville, one might expect the city leadership to promote traffic flow vigorously. But this is just blocks away from Mooresville’s
Are there streetscape features that can simultaneously benefit both pedestrians while expediting the flow of traffic? Among the few that easily comes to mind are the rapidly proliferating Walk/Don’tWalk signs that feature a countdown, informing pedestrians precisely when the light is about to turn green when they cross. While some would argue this imperiously urges pedestrians to hurry in an uninviting manner, a flashing “don’t walk’ without a countdown isn’t particularly friendly either. But at least the countdown informs pedestrians precisely how long they have, impelling them to make a more informed decision about crossing, and reducing the likelihood that they’ll be stranded in the middle of the street when the light turns green. By that measure, it also helps traffic that is less likely to have to dawdle because of scurrying pedestrians.
I am not particularly chagrinned by the staggered stop here in Mooresville and don’t mean to criticize it. By most metrics it is a smart feature for allowing drivers to make safer decisions in relation to other motorists. I don’t believe, however, that it should be applied at every intersection with equal regard. It would be wise for traffic engineers to be mindful of where the utility of staggered stops will outweigh the potentially compromised safety of pedestrians—which isn’t often in an urbanized area. But staggered stops along a busy six lane highway could work just as well, and if the intersection stands little chance of being traversed by many pedestrians, it may prove quite effective—and almost no drivers will notice how it has altered their behavior for improved efficiency.