Ways & Means

A couple of months ago I took a fellow rider who works for the LADOT on a tour of the new stretch of bikepath through Frogtown, along the LA River. I’d been nagging the City about the lack of wayfinding signage along that street (and really, along nearly every mile of bicycle facility in LA!), so they sent the fellow out to see what I was talking about and take notes and photos.

I showed him the unmarked exits–some of them quite fancy, with landscaping, benches, et al. All sported well-made signs telling you that you were entering a bike path, to yield to pedestrians, that you were along the LA River–in short, everything but what street you were passing if you were already on the bike path and looking for your exit! I also showed him how on some major exits you simply dropped onto a blank section of street with no indication to anyone who was not already familiar to the area of where you were and what might lie to the left or right.

He took his notes and pedaled off to HQ. A few weeks later I heard from him that there was some kind of umbrella project in the works to provide wayfinding for the region, and implying that it made our little effort redundant.

This should have made me happy, but it did not. Knowing LA’s compulsion for reinventing the square wheel, rather than learning from the experiences of other, more advanced cities, it makes me worry instead. Especially in light of another experience, in which I discovered one of the region’s rare wayfinding signs installed backwards, so that it pointed away from, rather than towards, the referenced bike path. My simple request that it be flipped around on its pole resulted in a bizarre email battle involving five persons from three different agencies, and the sign was not corrected till about three weeks later, by means that remain mysterious (at least to me).

Though I’ve inquired several times, I have not been able to find out just who is in charge of this purported wayfinding project–if we’re lucky it will be Alta Planning or some other progressive group, within or without the city. If we’re not, we may just get more of the same kind of half-baked efforts depicted in the photo below, comparing the best wayfinding sign I’ve so far encountered in the City of Los Angeles, with a typical sign from our much poorer Northern California sister, Oakland:

Wayfinding signs, LA vs. Oakland

In fact, Los Angeles bikeway signs are generally so bad that even when the graffiti artists have left them visible, they are often useless. (Hey, LADOT, ever heard of Graffiti Guard?) This has become such an irritant to me that I doctored up a couple of photos to show what street and freeway signs given to motorists would look like if the LADOT and CalTrans dissed them as sharply as they do cyclists:

Freeway signs, done as they would be were motorists treated as indifferently as cyclists in LA

Streetcorner signs, done in the style of LA's bicycle wayfinding signs

Considering how much motorists cost the public treasury, while cyclists overpay in taxes to support them, you’d think we might feel the need to do better by LA’s bike folk!

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