Better Bike Lane Signage Is Low-Cost, High-Impact Solution for Urban Cyclists

routemockup.jpgWhile the rest of us spin our wheels waiting for that infrastructure cash to kick in so that we can have a smooth new bike path to ride on, Los Angeles-based designer Joseph Prichard has a much better idea--one that not only gets bikers on the road, but makes them safer too. His proposal, Better Bikeways, calls for a simple, cost-effective overhaul of bikeway signage instead of the pricer options of paving new routes or marking dedicated lanes on the streets. Plus, it raises awareness for drivers who may not know they're sharing the road with two-wheelers. "Unfortunately all too often the role of signage is overlooked during the design of new bicycle routes," he writes in his introduction. Even better, he says, good-looking signs can work as an advocacy campaign for biking alternatives. "Effective widespread signage can be a powerful tool in convincing people to take up cycling as a mode of transportation." Here are some of the concepts presented in his signage system:

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Navigation signs function like bus stop maps, pointing out major streets, neighborhoods and lengths of routes.

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Connection signage points out how far away riders are to other routes and distances to bus and Metro stops.

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Caution signs are attention-getting and use iconography that's vastly different than other street signage.

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Points of interest include resources for bikers like repair shops and cultural institutions.

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8 Comments

  • Ryan Gossen

    As an Information Architect, Im apprehensive about the introduction of a new set of symbols without proper integration into the system of signs in which they will live. However, as a commuting cyclist, I'm ok with these signs having sharp elbows if they are effective, especially if they are supposed to replace actual infrastructure improvement.

  • Josh Staer

    anything to improve bicyclist traffic in busy streets is a good idea.. i also work in a similar field that involves motorcycle chain bracelet and bike chain jewelry
    which surprisingly has raised awareness of the fact that biking is a better
    alternative.. better signage only improves upon this great means of
    transportation.

  • Richard Moeur

    Mr. Prichard has certainly provided a interesting new perspective on a rather important topic. Some of the concepts may indeed be a better way of conveying guidance and warning to cyclists and others, but will need comprehensive testing before becoming adopted as a local or national standard.

    Although human-powered, bicyclists operate similar to other lower-speed vehicles, with defined reaction times and stopping/turning distances. Unlike pedestrians, bicyclists can't stop or turn instantly to avoid a hazard or ponder an intriguing object (or road sign, for that matter).

    Any signing system on public roads or pathways needs to work within the appropriate context and expectations of the user audience - including standard shape, color and other design features. The set of predefined shapes and colors established in the MUTCD provide important visual cues to road users as to a sign's importance and meaning. Disregarding or flouting these accepted guidelines may be perceived to have a novelty or "shock" effect, but results in confused readers and unintended (and injurious) results. In addition, the color purple will soon be reserved for toll facilities, and won't be available for signs of this type.

    The designer has created a series of novel and visually clever symbols - but although the graphics may be clear to the designer or a stationary undistracted reader, subtle yet critical details (such as exclamation points, eyes, or cardinal directions) might likely be missed entirely by a driver or cyclist who only has a short time to glance at the sign and interpret its message. Also remember that the penalty for failing to correctly read & interpret certain signs can result in confusion, inconvenience, injury or even death, so it's critically important that road users "get" the sign the first time, every time. So even tough they're fun & clever, these symbols & signs _must_ be extensively tested under realistic conditions (limited viewing time, busy visual field, etc.) prior to large-scale use.

    --
    Richard C. Moeur, PE
    Chair, Bicycle Technical Committee, National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices

  • Jackie Moss

    Ethan, you may design signs, but my guess is you don't do much riding. I do both, and when I saw this system, I was wishing I had thought of the idea first. The graphics overall are great, I agree with Aniko's comments. Color is always negotiable. It's Joseph's big picture concept that is missing from our roadways. The idea of creating bicycle awareness with drivers and communicating resources and routes to cyclists is brilliant. The signage we have currently in LA is easy to miss or dismiss if you are driving. I hope the designer can take this to the next step with the city. Thanks, Joseph. And if anyone has ideas for getting the potholes fixed, drivers and cyclists alike will be forever grateful.

  • Rory Williams

    Completely agree that sometimes the best solutions are the simplest, and the concept of using signs for multiple purposes is great. Also agree with the comment about all caps. It has been shown that they are harder to read than upper and lower case.

  • Ethan Smith

    I'm a designer and this happens to be the exact industry in which I work. I absolutely love this idea, but the concept images are a little off. First, and this is minor and easily fixable, signage has moved away from ALL CAPS in favor or proper capitalization and punctuation. More importantly, purple and magenta are the official standard colors for a radiation hazard according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. My first reaction when I saw the signs was, "Good heavens! What's wrong with those bikes?!?"