February 12, 2016

The Efficacy of Signage

I used to work for New York City DOT in the Queens Borough Commissioner’s Office. Part of my job was processing requests from the public: well-meaning people who did not have the vocabulary of traffic calming yet simply wanted DOT to do something about speeding motorists and unsafe streets.  So inevitably most of these requests were for signage. People understand signs.
Seen in North Vancouver a few days ago: undoubtedly in response to some well-meaning citizen(s) demands that ‘Council do something’ about real or perceived speeding on Mahon Avenue.

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Sign 1

That’ll fix it!”

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I’m going to chalk this one up to the charmingly responsive nature of local government, and not an actual, serious attempt to address real or perceived speeding on Mahon Avenue.

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  1. Signs don’t do much because nobody feels that they personally are the problem. “It’s someone else that’s going too fast, not me.”
    The only real solution is to have everyone on the street get together, be educated in how things work and then decide that there own personal convenience of getting home quickly will be traded for a better and safer street to live on. From there you can do things like change some through-streets and that sort of thing.

  2. Along the lines of increased risk noted in another post – that sign narrows the roadway quite a bit – so maybe drivers slow down to pass the sign?
    Then again, it’s likely that some people DO slow down when they see the sign – like the radar guns that track speed on the Cambie Bridge and elsewhere. The Cambie Bridge one is likely somewhat effective because the police station is nearby.

    1. Post
      Author

      New signs, or any new road features, do have a short-term effect, whether it be with drivers familiar with the stretch of road or an unfamiliar driver. But with signage, these effects wear off quickly and are soon close to nil.
      One fun study I saw was from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Road signs were switched from English to German without a single driver noticing. In this case, as with many, assumed familiarity breeds inattention. This sign in North Vancouver has already become just another road feature to avoid, like a parked car.
      http://acrs.org.au/files/arsrpe/Charlton%20and%20Starkey_Familiarity%20breeds%20inattention%20Why%20drivers%20crash%20on%20the%20roads%20they%20know%20best.pdf

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