Sunday, June 05, 2011

Don't 'Stop' Believing: the Stop Signs of Berkeley

Earlier this year, there was a wave of concern that the Internet would run out of IP addresses.

Well, here in Berkeley, we have a more pressing worry: We're running out of space on stop signs for our political messages!

People here love to turn every stop sign into an exaltation to "STOP animal testing" or "STOP human-rights abuses."

Of course, this isn't an only-in-Berkeley phenomenon. But it's hard to imagine that any other city in America has defaced as many stop signs on a per-capita basis.

Berkeley is a perfect storm: It has a politically minded populace, a high number of stop signs (both because of the city's penchant for traffic calming, and its slowness in installing stoplights), and a fondness for destroying public property (this is especially true here in South Berkeley). Bonus: The city isn't too quick about cleaning anything up.

Here's a small sampling of the ones near our house.

"STOP driving" is still by far the most popular, for good reason. What better way to reach drivers then via traffic signs?

You would hope the driver doesn't bail out immediately (please put the car in park before you stop driving, folks).

Conversely, this may be a less effective way to reach your intended audience.

A "STOP war" sign on Blake Street is unlikely to be viewed by members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

This one (above) is on nearby Carleton Street.

"STOP hate crimes." It's a noble sentiment, though "STOP graffiti" would be more cheeky.

I'm seeing a lot more of these — "STOP flying." I can only imagine it's because the carbon footprint of air travel has been so highly publicized in recent years. I think this makes people in Berkeley very conflicted, since they love to travel (or they love bragging about loving to travel).

I suppose this next one isn't a political statement. It's more a safety advisory: "STOP all way(s)." As in, stop every time.

Or the person was just a really big fan of Atlantic Starr.

On the corner of Bancroft and Spaulding: "Stop Hammertime." Bonus points for the outdated "Stop Texas Oil. No on 23" sticker.

And here's another that I spotted across the border in Oakland (it's perhaps more appropriate there, since that's where MC Hammer is from).

As yet, I haven't seen one for Vanilla Ice's "STOP...collaborate and listen" in Berkeley. (NOTE: See the update here.)

But it is available in T-shirt form here.

UPDATE: For the full series, click here.