Q: What?-Way-Stop

Q: Almost everywhere in BC where there’s a little black-and-white sign under a stop sign that says “X-way” (the “X” is usually “4”), it means precisely that there are “X” streets entering the intersection, and that all “X” of them have stop signs. I’ve seen this with 3-way stops as well.

However, very occasionally (three times in my life, that I recall), I’ve seen situations where the “X” is NOT equal to the number of streets nor of stop signs. For example, at the intersection of Garden and Welch in North Vancouver, it’s a T-intersection, so three streets, and two of them have stop signs that say “2 way” underneath.

I find this very confusing. When I see the “X-way” sign, I tend automatically to think that it means “All-way”, and that I’ll have right-of-way over anyone else who arrives after me at the intersection (which is obviously wrong).

Considering that about 99% of the time this is exactly what the “X-way” sign means, why on earth add the “2-way” signs at this intersection for example? What extra information does it give to drivers? Whether or not the “2-way” sign is there, a driver approaching the stop sign has at least one driver to which they have to yield.

Reserving these “X-way” signs to mean _only_ “All way” would give the driver some extra information (and not be confusing the tiny fraction of the time that they don’t mean that).

I agree these are weird and can confuse drivers, especially new ones. 

Garden and Welch:


It makes sense that the traffic turning on and off Garden gets the right of way as it is clearly an alternate route that many drivers take to avoid Marine Drive. I actually thought that the 2-way tab was a good idea, since it’s so obvious there are 3 roads, it makes the driver wonder which vehicles are not required to stop. The only reason this is any different from a regular 2-way stop is that there’s a bunch of trees/shrubs/park (or whatever) in the place where the 4th road/direction would normally be. If there was a road there, would it still have the 2-way tab? Probably not? Most 2-way stops do not have the 2-way tab, so maybe this is actually supposed to be helpful to drivers.

The question is, if it didn’t have the 2-way tab at all, would a driver automatically assume that it’s a 3-way stop, especially considering they can clearly see the back of the stop sign for the opposing traffic? And would this be more, or less dangerous than having the 2-way tab in place? Would a mere stop sign still clearly alert the driver that someone’s not stopping here?

I think this is meant to keep drivers safe. Confusion may be a good thing in this case, it is meant to make the driver stop and use his brain rather than relying on dangerous “autopilot”.


Equally weird we have Bellevue and 24th in West Vancouver. It’s a 2-way stop with a 2-way tab. It looks like a 4-way intersection though. But one of the streets turns into a one-way street at this point. So it’s really a 3-way intersection with a 2-way stop sign:



Perhaps this one has something to do with the train tracks? Is it just random that it’s not a 3-way stop? I somehow don’t think so! In this case the 2-way tab must be here, considering it is still a 2-way stop, but not a normal-looking one. Along with the one-way sign, it says to the driver, “Hey you, someone is required to stop at this intersection other than you, and yet someone else is not required to. Figure out who they are and where they are! Hint… Hint… One of them is probably the traffic you can not see hiding behind that humungous West Vancouver-style shrub!”

How about this one. Forbes and 14th in North Vancouver. It’s a 3-way stop tab, but there are 4 directions. So in the event 4 cars arrive to the intersection at about the same time, one of them gets to fly straight through and then the other 3 must stop and go in order according to the rules? I have no idea what is up with this other than the engineering department ran out of stop signs while creating this intersection. Maybe the 4th stop sign fell off the back of the truck when they went over a bump. This makes no sense to me. Make it a 2 way or a 4, but why did you make it a 3-way?!

To me this is the most weird.


Perhaps someone thinks that drivers are too distracted these days and not paying attention to the task at hand, so they gave us these little riddles to force us to think about driving while we are driving. Likely it was in an effort to keep us all safe.

I have also seen 3-way stop with 3 stop signs but without the “3-way” tab. And I find this is equally confusing and time-consuming as drivers try to figure out just what is going on.

If anyone has a better answer, do tell.

Drive safely everyone.


Carmen became a driving instructor at the age of 22 in North Vancouver, Canada and is an experienced writer, blogger, photographer, artist, philosopher, certified day dreamer and generally complicated human.

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