Monday, May 7, 2012

Read The Signs

One of the things I like most about bicycling in Portland are all of the wonderful signs they give you.

State of Mind

They tell you where to go and about how long it will take to do so.  I have always found the timing estimates to be spot on.  It is quite hard to get lost even though just about everything is a clapboard house with a big tree in front of it.

Gotta Love Your Bike Route

The ones in San Francisco are a little more interpretive.  We have room for improvement.


  1. I hate numbered bike routes! SF should just adopt the city of Oakland' bike route signage, which is the best in the region in my opinion:

    A lot of the work Oakland did has also been folded into the new, national guidelines for bike route signs.

  2. The San Francisco sign is a work of art. I love it!

  3. I'm a strong believer that good signage +good design changes and saves lives (for example airport disaster +emergencies) but for routes relying heavily on signs alone has a double take with me, personally. It would be like relying for street signs to tell you where to go or how far you have, sure they help with a bit nore info but for my control-freak mind, I would like to have a map or pre-planned way to get to places beforehand. Of course that is not always the case or possible.

    @prinzrob's comment: that is a beautifully design +informative brochure of oakland +thanks for sharing.
    However one thing that san francisco does have is an absolutely informative map, that shows grades of hills and is as helpful to use it for biking (which I've referred to for ages) and now that I am walking a ton, has also been helpful. I do agree that our signs could use a lot of improvement, but there are other steps that can and must improve before that, like the infrastructure of bike lanes +better streets throughout town.

    That said, the front of the SF walk/bike map is also available for free PDF download from the SFbike coalition site:

    cheers +safe wanderlusting xxom

  4. to be fair, these signs do tell you "something" but they are completely NOT intuitive. once i read the sf bike map, i was able to decipher the signs. BUT we shouldn't need to reference something else to decode a sign. infrastructure FAIL. :-/

  5. @Meli- Portland has an excellent bike route map, and unlike ours here in SF (which rocks!!!!) is free to anyone. all you have to do is go into a bike shop and ask for one- either a full sized map or a fold up pocket sized one! When you combine it with the street signs it is a huge 1-2 punch. For me it was great to have the signs because it was raining a lot of the time I was there and taking out a paper map to consult frequently would have been pointless.

    @CTX- I am amazed at how often I have regularly ridden certain routes without taking notice of the route signs. They don't really tell you anything, especially if you are not from here or are unfamiliar with the streets.

    @prinzrob- Oakland's signage is almost exactly like the signs in Portland. I can not say for sure, but I think that Portland's came first. I could be wrong.

  6. The signs in Portland are awesome but what's really fun is finding the non-sanctioned ones that are popped up by local activists/artists/environmentalists/humbugs/soccer cousins/etc. for various reasons.
    10 points (per sign) if you spot one of those!

    1. I think I have found my next Portland activity!

  7. We should recognize that those two signs are telling you distinctly different things. In Portland, it’s a sign pointing you to certain landmarks/areas (Berkeley, Paris, etc have these). In SF, it’s a sign that tells you what route you’re on. It’s like the difference between a sign on the side of the highway that says “Interstate 5” vs a sign that says “Los Angeles ... 238 miles”.

    Whether or not the numbered routes (which are good to follow if you’re going longer distances, just as a highway is something you take, *especially* since a bike route often doesn't follow the same street) are useful, SF could benefit from some "landmark/distance" signs like Portland. But I’d argue for retaining bike route numbers so that directions ("take route 40 to route 34”) are simpler to follow. The destination signs work great if you’re near your destination, but not if you’re going far.

    Of course the real solution is to make long, continuous bike routes on consistent streets, so the numbered route just becomes the name of the street that you’re riding on. Then it’s normal, street-based city navigation.

    1. i think that is a great distinction, complete with an on-point analogy.